Info for charities applying for tax-exempt status: determining type of organization

Before applying for tax-exempt status, a charitable organization should determine if it’s one of the following:

  • Trust
    trust is formed under state law. An organization should review the law in the state where it is organized. For a trust to qualify as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, its organizing document must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.
  • Corporation
    In general, a corporation is formed under state law by filing articles of incorporation. The state must generally date-stamp the articles before they’re effective. For a corporation to qualify as a 501(c)(3) organization, its charter or articles of incorporation must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.
  • Association
    In general, an association is a group organized for a specific purpose. To qualify as a 501(a) of the Code, the association must have a written document showing its creation. This document could be articles of association. The organization must date the document, and at least two people must sign it.

The definition of an association can vary under state law. The organizations should consult the law of the state where it’s organized. For an association to qualify as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, its articles of association must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.

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