Investor's wiki

501(c)(3) Organization

501(c)(3) Organization

What Is a 501(c)(3) Organization?

Section 501(c)(3) is a portion of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and a specific tax category for nonprofit organizations. Organizations that meet Section 501(c)(3) requirements are exempt from federal income tax. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) perceives in excess of 30 types of nonprofit organizations, just those that fit the bill for 501(c)(3) status can say that donations to them are tax deductible.

A large portion of the organizations that might be eligible for 501(c)(3) assignment fall into one of three categories: charitable organizations, temples and strict organizations, and private foundations. The rules framed in Section 501(c)(3) are regulated by the U.S. Treasury through the IRS.

How a 501(c)(3) Organization Works

To be considered a charitable organization by the IRS, a group must operate solely for one of these purposes: charitable, strict, educational, logical, scholarly, testing for public safety, cultivating national or international novice sports competition, or preventing brutality to children or creatures.

Moreover, the IRS characterizes "charitable" activities as "relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; progression of religion; headway of education or science; raising or keeping up with public structures, landmarks, or works; diminishing the weights of government; reducing neighborhood strains; killing bias and segregation; protecting human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community crumbling and adolescent delinquency."

Requirements of a 501(c)(3) Organization

To be tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3), an organization must not be serving any private interests, including the interests of the maker, the maker's family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or different people controlled by private interests. None of the net earnings of the organization can be utilized to benefit any private shareholder or individual; all earnings must be utilized exclusively for the progression of its charitable reason.

A 501(c)(3) organization is likewise illegal from involving its activities to influence legislation in a substantial manner, incorporating participating in any campaign activities to support or deny a specific political candidate. It is commonly not permitted to take part in lobbying (besides in occurrences when its expenditures are below a certain amount).

Individuals employed by the organization must be paid "sensible compensation," which depends on the fair market value that the job function requires.

When an organization is sorted as a 501(c)(3), the assignment stays as long as the organization exists except if it is revoked by the IRS.

To remain tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3), an organization is additionally required to stay true to its establishing purpose. Assuming an organization has recently reported to the IRS that its mission is to assist less privileged individuals with gaining access to a college education, it must keep up with this purpose. Assuming it chooses to participate in another calling — for instance, sending relief to displaced families in neediness stricken countries — the 501(c)(3) organization needs to first tell the IRS of its change of operations to prevent the loss of its tax-exempt status.

While some unrelated business income is took into consideration a 501(c)(3) organization, the tax-exempt charity may not receive substantial income from unrelated business operations. This means that the majority of the firm's efforts must go toward its exempt purpose as a nonprofit organization. Any unrelated business from sales of merchandise or rental properties must be limited or the organization could lose its 501(c)(3) status. While the IRS doesn't determine precisely how much is too much unrelated business income, the law firm of Hurwit and Associates, which specializes in addressing nonprofits, appraises the amount at somewhere close to 15% and 30%.

While organizations that meet the requirements of Section 501(c)(3) are exempt from federal income tax, they are required to withhold federal income tax from their employees' paychecks and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. They don't, nonetheless, need to pay federal unemployment taxes.

Special Considerations

Organizations that meet the 501(c)(3) tax category requirements can be classified into two categories: public causes and private foundations. The fundamental qualification between these two categories is the way they get their financial support.

Public charity

A public charity is a nonprofit organization that receives a substantial portion of its income or revenue from the overall population or the government. Somewhere around one-third of its income must be received from the donations of the overall population (counting individuals, corporations, and other nonprofit organizations).

On the off chance that an individual gives to an organization that the IRS views as a public charity, they might meet all requirements for certain tax deductions that can assist them with bringing down their taxable income. Generally, the total amount of donations to a tax-exempt public charity that an individual can claim is limited to half of their adjusted gross income (AGI). Be that as it may, there is no limitation on donations to qualified charitable organizations, for example, a 501(c)(3).

Private foundation

A private foundation is regularly held by an individual, a family, or a corporation and gets the majority of its income from a small group of benefactors. Private foundations are subject to stricter rules and regulations than public causes. All 501(c)(3) organizations are consequently classified as private foundations except if they can demonstrate they fulfill the IRS guidelines to be considered a public charity. The deductibility of contributions to a private foundation is more limited than donations for a public charity.

To apply for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3), most nonprofit organizations are required to file Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ in no less than 27 months from their date of incorporation. The charitable organization must incorporate its articles of incorporation and give reports that demonstrate that the organization is just operating for exempt purposes.

In any case, not all organizations that meet all requirements for the tax category need to submit Form 1023. For instance, public causes that earn under $5,000 in revenue each year are exempt from filing this form. Even however it isn't required, they might in any case decide to file the form to guarantee that donations made to their organization will be tax deductible for contributors.

Benefits and Disadvantages of a 501(c)(3) Organization

The 501(c)(3) status offers a bunch of benefits to the designated organizations and individuals they serve. First off, 501(c)(3) organizations are exempt from paying federal income and unemployment taxes, and supporters who give to them are permitted to claim a tax deduction for their contributions.

To assist with funding and further their mission, these organizations are eligible to receive government and private grants. To qualify, the organization must have a mission lined up with the purpose of the grant and a requirement for it. What's more, 501(c)(3) organizations frequently receive discounts from retailers, free advertising via public service declarations, and food and supplies from other nonprofit organizations intended to help in times of need.

A 501(c)(3) could be the lifelong dream of its organizer; be that as it may, once settled as a 501(c)(3), it no longer belongs to its pioneer. Rather, it is a mission-situated organization belonging to the public. To keep up with its positive tax treatment, it must operate inside the bounds of the law relating to 501(c)(3) organizations.

Since the organization serves the public, it must operate with full transparency. Subsequently, its finances, including salaries, are accessible to individuals from the public and subject to their survey.


  • Exempt from federal taxes

  • Contributions are tax deductible

  • Eligible for government and private grants


  • Does not belong to those who created it

  • Restricted to specific operations to receive tax exemptions

  • Financial information is publicly accessible

## Illustration of a 501(c)(3) Organization

The American Red Cross, laid out in 1881 and legislatively chartered in 1900, is one of the United States' most established nonprofit organizations. Its mission statement says that the Red Cross "prevents and eases human experiencing in the face of crises by preparing the power of workers and the liberality of benefactors." Since its origin, its goal has been to serve individuals from the armed powers and give aid during disasters.

Situated in 191 countries, the Red Cross operates the biggest network of workers in the world. This 501(c)(3) organization is segmented into three divisions: the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which incorporate the American Red Cross, aim to alleviate human enduring globally by empowering subordinate organizations to operate inside their country's borders to give disaster relief, education, and other related services. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies gives global humanitarian aid during peacetime, for example, helping evacuees. The International Committee of the Red Cross gives humanitarian relief to individuals impacted by war or other armed clashes.

Individuals who organize their tax deductions can add to the Red Cross and claim the amount gave as a deduction. Taxpayers who utilize the standard deduction might in any case claim up to $600 of their 501(c)(3) contributions as a tax deduction in 2021.

The Bottom Line

501(c)(3) organizations are nonprofit groups with a dedicated mission. The vast majority are know all about them as houses of worship and good cause, yet they additionally incorporate private foundations. However long they operate to support their mission, they receive positive tax treatment, for example, keeping away from federal income and unemployment taxes.


  • To receive its great tax treatment, the nonprofit organization must not go amiss from its purpose or mission.
  • Section 501(c)(3) is a portion of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and a specific tax category for nonprofit organizations.
  • While the IRS perceives in excess of 30 types of nonprofit organizations, just organizations that fit the bill for 501(c)(3) status can say that donations to them are tax deductible.
  • Organizations that meet the requirements of Section 501(c)(3) are exempt from federal income tax.
  • 501(c)(3) organizations must pay their employees fair market value wages.


The amount Does It Cost to Start a 501(c)(3)?

The costs associated with making a 501(c)(3) differ as per the requirements of the organization. Be that as it may, a few costs can be approximated. For instance, filing the articles of incorporation with the state ordinarily costs about $100. The IRS Form 1023 filing fee is $600. Nonetheless, for organizations that expect under $50,000 in annual earnings, Form 1023 EZ can be filed for $275.

What Is the Difference Between a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4)?

A 501(c)(3) organization is a nonprofit organization laid out solely for one of the accompanying purposes: charitable, strict, educational, logical, scholarly, testing for public safety, encouraging national or international novice sports competition, or preventing mercilessness to children or creatures. These organizations are generally precluded from engaging in campaigning. On the other hand, 501(c)(4) organizations, which are likewise nonprofit, are social welfare groups and permitted to participate in campaigning.

Do You Need to Be a Corporation to Get a 501(c)(3)?

As per the IRS, to meet all requirements for the 501(c)(3) status, the organization must be formed "as a trust, a corporation, or an association."

How Do You Start a 501(c)(3)?

To make a 501(c)(3), you must characterize the type of organization and its purpose or mission. Before choosing a name, search to guarantee that it isn't taken. In the event that accessible, secure the name by enlisting it with your state. In any case, secure the name while filing the articles of incorporation. The articles of incorporation must be filed with the state wherein it will be organized and as per the state's rules for nonprofit organizations.After filing, apply for the 501(c)(3) IRS exemption (Form 1023) and state tax exemption for nonprofit organizations. Upon completion, make your organization's bylaws, which determine how the organization will be structured and represented. At long last, delegate and meet with your board of directors.

How Long Does It Take to Get a 501(c)(3) Determination Letter?

A determination letter is sent subsequent to applying for the 501(c)(3) exemption. The IRS will just say that "applications are handled as fast as could be expected" and "are handled in the order received by the IRS." However, it gives a rundown of 10 tips that can abbreviate the process.Anecdotally, the website BoardEffect, which offers software planned "to make crafted by their boards of directors simpler, more efficient and more effective," says it can take just two to about a month on the off chance that you can file Form 1023-EZ. Nonetheless, the people who must (or decide) to file Form 1023 will probably sit tight for somewhere in the range of three to six months to get their letter, while at times the stand by can be up to a year.