How to Apply to the IRS for Charity Certification
Thousands of groups apply to the Internal Revenue Service each year
to obtain charity status. In 1995, more than 67,000 groups
applied. Only 619 of those applications were denied, while an
additional 16,000 were held over for consideration in 1996.
To qualify as a charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal
Revenue Code, an organization must prove to the service that it
operates exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or
Donors to such groups may take charitable-
contribution deductions from their taxes, which they cannot do with
contributors to other kinds of non-profit organizations.
Following are the basic steps involved in seeking charity
The Exempt Organization Division of the I.R.S. has publications
that explain how to apply for non-profit status. Contact the
I.R.S. to get Publication 557,
Tax-Exempt Status for Your
Organization, which outlines the basic procedures for winning
charity status and maintaining it. Also ask for Form 1023 (to file
for 501(c)(3) status),
Form 8718 (to calculate the fee for filing
the exemption), and Form SS-4 (to apply for an employer
identification number). Forms are available from the service's
1111 Constitution Avenue, N.W., CP:E:EO, Room 6411,
Washington 20224; (202) 622-5088. They may also be obtained from
any local I.R.S. office by calling (800) 829-3676.
- Draw up the rules that will govern the charity. Those will
become the organization's by-laws, which must be submitted to the
- Obtain status as an incorporated charity; organizations that
are not incorporated cannot obtain status as a charity.
- Collect financial statements showing receipts and expenditures
for the current year and the three preceding years to submit along
with he application for charity status.
Organizations that have
been in existence for four years or less only have to provide such
information for every year they have operated.
- Be prepared to submit the organization's publications and
copies of leases, contracts, or other legally binding agreements.
The service does not require those materials to be submitted, but
it has the
option of asking for them.
Publication 557 also can be found on the revenue service's World-Wide Web site at
Source: Marilyn Dickey, Chronicle of Philanthropy, April 3, 1997, p.35.
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Last revised 04/18/16