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Publication 557

Articles of Organization(p24)

Your organization must include a conformed copy of its articles of organization with the application for recognition of exemption (unless filing a Form 1023-EZ). This may be its trust instrument, corporate charter, articles of association, or any other written instrument by which it is created.

Organizational Test(p24)

The articles of organization must limit the organization's purposes to one or more of those described at the beginning of this chapter and mustn't expressly empower it to engage, other than as an insubstantial part of its activities, in activities that don't further one or more of those purposes. These conditions for exemption are referred to as the organizational test.
Section 501(c)(3) is the provision of law that grants exemption to the organizations described in this chapter. Therefore, the organizational test may be met if the purposes stated in the articles of organization are limited in some way by reference to section 501(c)(3).
The requirement that your organization's purposes and powers must be limited by the articles of organization isn't satisfied if the limit is contained only in the bylaws or other rules or regulations. Moreover, the organizational test isn't satisfied by statements of your organization's officers that you intend to operate only for exempt purposes. Also, the test isn't satisfied by the fact that your actual operations are for exempt purposes.
In interpreting an organization's articles, the law of the state where the organization was created is controlling. If an organization contends that the terms of its articles have a different meaning under state law than their generally accepted meaning, such meaning must be established by a clear and convincing reference to relevant court decisions, opinions of the state attorney general, or other appropriate state authorities.
The following are examples illustrating the organizational test.

Example 1.(p24)

Articles of organization state that an organization is formed exclusively for literary and scientific purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3). These articles appropriately limit the organization's purposes. The organization meets the organizational test.

Example 2.(p24)

An organization, by the terms of its articles, is formed to engage in research without any further description or limitation. The organization won't be properly limited as to its purposes since all research isn't scientific. The organization doesn't meet the organizational test.

Example 3.(p24)

An organization's articles state that its purpose is to receive contributions and pay them over to organizations that are described in section 501(c)(3) and exempt from taxation under section 501(a). The organization meets the organizational test.

Example 4.(p24)

If a stated purpose in the articles is the conduct of a school of adult education and its manner of operation is described in detail, such a purpose will be satisfactorily limited.

Example 5.(p24)

If the articles state the organization is formed for charitable purposes, without any further description, such language ordinarily will be sufficient since the term charitable has a generally accepted legal meaning. On the other hand, if the purposes are stated to be charitable, philanthropic, and benevolent, the organizational requirement won't be met since the terms philanthropic and benevolent have no generally accepted legal meaning and, therefore, the stated purposes may, under the laws of the state, permit activities that are broader than those intended by the exemption law.

Example 6.(p24)

If the articles state an organization is formed to promote American ideals, or to foster the best interests of the people, or to further the common welfare and well-being of the community, without any limitation or provision restricting such purposes to accomplishment only in a charitable manner, the purposes won't be sufficiently limited. Such purposes are vague and may be accomplished other than in an exempt manner.

Example 7.(p24)

A stated purpose to operate a hospital doesn't meet the organizational test since it isn't necessarily charitable. A hospital may or may not be exempt depending on the manner in which it is operated.

Example 8.(p24)

An organization that is expressly empowered by its articles to carry on social activities won't be sufficiently limited as to its power, even if its articles state that it is organized and will be operated exclusively for charitable purposes.

Dedication and Distribution of Assets(p24)

Assets of an organization must be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose. This means that should an organization dissolve, its assets must be distributed for an exempt purpose described in this chapter, or to the Federal Government or to a state or local government for a public purpose. If the assets could be distributed to members or private individuals or for any other purpose, the organizational test isn't met.
To establish that your organization's assets will be permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose, the articles of organization should contain a provision ensuring their distribution for an exempt purpose in the event of dissolution. Although reliance can be placed upon state law to establish permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes, your organization's application probably can be processed much more rapidly if its articles of organization include a provision ensuring permanent dedication of assets for exempt purposes.
Rev. Proc. 82-2, 1982-1 C.B. 367, identifies the states and circumstances in which the IRS won't require an express provision for the distribution of assets upon dissolution in the articles of organization. The procedure also provides a sample of an acceptable dissolution provision for organizations required to have one.
If a named beneficiary is to be the distributee, it must be one that would qualify and would be exempt within the meaning of section 501(c)(3) at the time the dissolution takes place. Since the named beneficiary at the time of dissolution may not be qualified, may not be in existence, or may be unwilling or unable to accept the assets of the dissolving organization, a provision should be made for distribution of the assets for one or more of the purposes specified in this chapter in the event of any such contingency.

Sample articles of organization.(p24)

See sample articles of organization in the Appendix in the back of this publication.