Steps to Achieving Nonprofit Status
Applying to the IRS for tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) requires a great deal of time and effort. Before filing the application, you must apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and file articles of incorporation containing certain IRS-required provisions with the State Corporation Commission, which must be attached to your application. (The SCC form articles do not contain those provisions.) If you have bylaws by then, you must attach a copy of those as well.
In addition, you will have to register with the Virginia Department of Taxation and, if your organization will solicit donations from the public, register annually with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. (Our “Online Resources for Nonprofits” links to the relevant state agencies’ websites.)
You will also need to prepare a detailed narrative describing your past, current, and planned activities and a projected budget for your organization, including all expected income and expenses for the current year and the next two years, because the IRS application requires this information. You should also have a conflict-of-interest policy, as the application recommends.
To help you see areas to focus on to successfully apply for tax-exempt status, we recommend completing the Questionnaire for Potential Nonprofits. You should also review the Business Plan Outline and work on creating your own.
Below is a list of IRS forms and publications important to consult in preparing to apply for recognition as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All are available on the IRS web site, both from its home page, http://www.irs.gov, and its “Charities and Non-Profits” section linked from there.
* IRS Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Tax Exempt Status, and instructions
* Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number
* IRS Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization
* IRS Publication 4220, Applying for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status
* IRS Publication 4221, Compliance Guide for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations
* Life Cycle of an Exempt Organization
For more information on establishing, funding, governing and maintaining tax-exempt nonprofits, see our Online Resources for Nonprofits, a comprehensive listing of governmental and other web sites, and Books for Nonprofits, a detailed bibliography of print resources. For additional resources, check the public library for other books and local community organizations and institutions of higher education for seminars and courses on nonprofit organizations.