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Publication 557

Application for Recognition of Exemption(p22)

This discussion describes certain information to be provided upon application for recognition of exemption by all organizations created for any of the purposes described earlier in this chapter. For example, the application must include a conformed copy of the organization's articles of incorporation, as discussed under Articles of Organization, later in this chapter. See the organization headings that follow for specific information your organization may need to provide.

Form 1023.(p22)

Your organization must file its application for recognition of exemption on Form 1023. See chapter 1 and the instructions accompanying Form 1023 for the procedures to follow in applying. Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023. See Organizations Not Required To File Form 1023, later.
If you are a small organization, you can save time and money by filing Form 1023-EZ instead of Form 1023. You can find more information on filing this form at Instructions for Form 1023–EZ.
Additional information to help you complete your application can be found online. Go to Exemption Requirement – Section 501(c)(3) Organizations and select the link at the bottom of the Web page for step by step help with the application process. See Exemption Requirements - Section 501(c)(3) Organizations.
Form 1023 and accompanying statements must show that all of the following are true.
  1. The organization is organized exclusively for, and will be operated exclusively for, one or more of the purposes (religious, charitable, etc.) specified in the introduction to this chapter.
  2. No part of the organization's net earnings will inure to the benefit of private shareholders or individuals. You must establish that your organization will not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator's family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests.
  3. The organization will not, as a substantial part of its activities, attempt to influence legislation (unless it elects to come under the provisions allowing certain lobbying expenditures) or participate to any extent in a political campaign for or against any candidate for public office. See Political activity, next, and Lobbying Expenditures, near the end of this chapter.
Political activity.(p22)
If any of the activities (whether or not substantial) of your organization consist of participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, your organization will not qualify for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3). Such participation or intervention includes the publishing or distributing of statements.
Whether your organization is participating or intervening, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each case. Certain voter education activities or public forums conducted in a nonpartisan manner may not be prohibited political activity under section 501(c)(3), while other so-called voter education activities may be prohibited.

Effective date of exemption.(p22)

Most organizations described in this chapter that were organized after October 9, 1969, will not be treated as tax exempt unless they apply for recognition of exemption by filing Form 1023. These organizations will not be treated as tax exempt for any period before they file Form 1023, unless they file the form within 27 months from the end of the month in which they were organized. If the organization files the application within this 27-month period, the organization's exemption will be recognized retroactively to the date it was organized. Otherwise, exemption will be recognized only from the date of receipt. The date of receipt is the date of the U.S. postmark on the cover in which an exemption application is mailed or, if no postmark appears on the cover, the date the application is stamped as received by the IRS.
Private delivery service.(p22)
If a private delivery service designated by the IRS, rather than the U.S. Postal Service, is used to deliver the application, the date of receipt is the date recorded or marked by the private delivery service. The following private delivery services have been designated by the IRS.
Amendments to organizing documents required.(p23)
If an organization is required to alter its activities or to make substantive amendments to its organizing document, the ruling or determination letter recognizing its exempt status will be effective as of the date the changes are made. If only a nonsubstantive amendment is made, exempt status will be effective as of the date it was organized, if the application was filed within the 15-month period, or the date the application was filed.

Extensions of time for filing.(p23)

There are two ways organizations seeking exemption can receive an extension of time for filing Form 1023.
  1. Automatic 12-month extension. Organizations will receive an automatic 12-month extension if they file an application for recognition of exemption with the IRS within 12 months of the original deadline. To get this extension, an organization must add the following statement at the top of its application: "Filed Pursuant to Section 301.9100-2."
  2. Discretionary extensions. An organization that fails to file a Form 1023 within the extended 12-month period will be granted an extension to file if it submits evidence (including affidavits) to establish that:
    1. It acted reasonably and in good faith, and
    2. Granting a discretionary extension will not prejudice the interests of the government.
How to show reasonable action and good faith.(p23)
An organization acted reasonably and showed good faith if at least one of the following is true.
  1. The organization requests relief before its failure to file is discovered by the IRS.
  2. The organization failed to file because of intervening events beyond its control.
  3. The organization exercised reasonable diligence (taking into account the complexity of the return or issue and the organization's experience in these matters) but was not aware of the filing requirement.
  4. The organization reasonably relied upon the written advice of the IRS.
  5. The organization reasonably relied upon the advice of a qualified tax professional who failed to file or advise the organization to file Form 1023. An organization cannot rely on the advice of a tax professional if it knows or should know that he or she is not competent to render advice on filing exemption applications or is not aware of all the relevant facts.
Not acting reasonably and in good faith.(p23)
An organization has not acted reasonably and in good faith under the following circumstances.
  1. It seeks to change a return position for which an accuracy-related penalty has been or could be imposed at the time the relief is requested.
  2. It was informed of the requirement to file and related tax consequences, but chose not to file.
  3. It uses hindsight in requesting relief. The IRS will not ordinarily grant an extension if specific facts have changed since the due date that makes filing an application advantageous to an organization.
Prejudicing the interest of the Government.(p23)
Prejudice to the interest of the Government results if granting an extension of time to file to an organization results in a lower total tax liability for the years to which the filing applies than would have been the case if the organization had filed on time. Before granting an extension, the IRS can require the organization requesting it to submit a statement from an independent auditor certifying that no prejudice will result if the extension is granted.
The interests of the Government are ordinarily prejudiced if the tax year in which the application should have been filed (or any tax year that would have been affected had the filing been timely) are closed by the statute of limitations before relief is granted. The IRS can condition a grant of relief on the organization providing the IRS with a statement from an independent auditor certifying that the interests of the Government are not prejudiced.
Procedure for requesting extension.(p23)
To request a discretionary extension, an organization must submit (to the IRS address shown on Form 1023 and Notice 1382) the following.
A request for this relief in connection with an application for exemption does not require payment of an additional user fee. Also, a request for relief under the automatic 12-month extension does not require payment of a user fee.
More information.(p23)
For more information about these procedures, see Regulations sections 301.9100-1, 301.9100-2, 301.9100-3, Revenue Procedure 2015-4, section 6.04, 2015-1 I.R.B. 147, and Revenue Procedure 2015-8, 2015-1 I.R.B. 236. See Revenue Procedure 2015-4 and Revenue Procedure 2015-8.

Notification from the IRS.(p23)

Organizations filing Form 1023 and satisfying all requirements of section 501(c)(3) will be notified of their exempt status in writing.

Organizations Not Required To File Form 1023(p23)

Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023 or 1023-EZ. These include:
These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).

Filing Form 1023 to establish exemption.(p23)

If the organization wants to establish its exemption with the IRS and receive a ruling or determination letter recognizing its exempt status, it should file Form 1023 or 1023-EZ (if eligible). By establishing its exemption, potential contributors are assured by the IRS that contributions will be deductible. A subordinate organization (other than a private foundation) covered by a group exemption letter does not have to submit a Form 1023 for itself.
Private foundations.(p24)
See Private Foundations and Public Charities, later in this chapter, for more information about the additional notice required from an organization in order for it not to be presumed to be a private foundation and for the additional information required from a private foundation claiming to be an operating foundation.
Gross receipts test.(p24)
For purposes of the gross receipts test, an organization normally does not have more than $5,000 annually in gross receipts if:
  1. During its first tax year the organization received gross receipts of $7,500 or less,
  2. During its first 2 years the organization had a total of $12,000 or less in gross receipts, and
  3. In the case of an organization that has been in existence for at least 3 years, the total gross receipts received by the organization during the immediately preceding 2 years, plus the current year, are $15,000 or less.
An organization with gross receipts more than the amounts in the gross receipts test, unless otherwise exempt from filing Form 1023, must file a Form 1023 within 90 days after the end of the period in which the amounts are exceeded. For example, an organization's gross receipts for its first tax year were less than $7,500, but at the end of its second tax year its gross receipts for the 2-year period were more than $12,000. The organization must file Form 1023 within 90 days after the end of its second tax year.
If the organization had existed for at least 3 tax years and had met the gross receipts test for all prior tax years but fails to meet the requirement for the current tax year, its tax-exempt status for the prior years will not be lost even if Form 1023 is not filed within 90 days after the close of the current tax year. However, the organization will not be treated as a section 501(c)(3) organization for the period beginning with the current tax year and ending with the filing of Form 1023.
An organization is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes and is not a private foundation. It was incorporated on January 1, 2011, and files returns on a calendar-year basis. It did not file a Form 1023. The organization's gross receipts during the years 2011 through 2014 were as follows:
The organization's total gross receipts for 2011, 2012, and 2013 were $6,900. Therefore, it did not have to file Form 1023 and is exempt for those years. However, for 2012, 2013, and 2014 the total gross receipts were $15,900. Therefore, the organization must file Form 1023 within 90 days after the end of its 2014 tax year. If it does not file within this time period, it will not be exempt under section 501(c)(3) for the period beginning with tax year 2014 ending when the Form 1023 is received by the IRS. The organization, however, will not lose its exempt status for the tax years ending before January 1, 2014.
The IRS will consider applying the Commissioner's discretionary authority to extend the time for filing Form 1023. See the procedures for this extension discussed earlier.