How to File Tax-Exempt Forms

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If you run a nonprofit organization, your group might qualify for tax-exempt status with the federal government. If your application is approved by the Internal Revenue Service, your group will be exempt from paying federal income tax and supporters may be able to make tax-deductible charitable contributions. To get started, you must file tax-exempt forms with the IRS.

Assemble the required documentation. Provide the IRS with a complete description of your organization. Submit articles of organization and amendments; bylaws or rules; a roster of directors, officers and trustees, including names, titles, addresses and annual compensation; the same information about employees and independent contractors receiving more than $50,000 per year; all financial records, including funds received (contributions, grants, investment income, etc.) and funds spent (salaries, rent, utilities, fund-raising expenses, etc.); and a narrative description of your organization's activities, including newsletters, brochures, etc.

Download IRS Form 1023, "Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code," from the IRS web site. This is a 12-page form (plus additional schedules). Complete every block of every section unless directed otherwise. If you omit any of the requested information, the IRS will return the form to you for completion. Many nonprofit organizations find it helpful to retain an accountant to help with this task.

Complete IRS Form 2848, "Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative," if anyone other than the organization's director will be interacting with the IRS on behalf of the organization. Leave blank the request to enter a CAF number, which is not used for tax-exempt filings.

Complete IRS Form 8821, "Tax Information Authorization," if you' want to appoint someone to speak with the IRS about your application but not to make binding agreements. This will allow individuals designated by you to discuss the application with the IRS. This can be handy for checking on the status, taking messages, etc.

Calculate your user fee, which you must pay when you file your tax-exempt forms. Your application will not be processed if this fee is not paid. To calculate the fee you owe, you must know your average annual gross receipts over a four-year period. If the gross receipts amount to less than $10,000 annually, your user fee will be $300. If they are $10,000 or more, the fee will be $750. Provide a check or money order made out to "United States Treasury" for your total fee.

Submit all forms and other documentation and pay the application fee. Send everything to:

Internal Revenue Service PO Box 192 Covington, KY 41012-0192

Tips & Warnings

  • Special assistance is available from the IRS for organizations seeking tax-exempt status.
  • Submit your application for tax-exempt status no later than the 15th month after the date of your organization's creation. If you miss the deadline, your application will be processed, but your tax-exempt status might start from the application date instead of the creation date.

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