Nonprofits seeking tax exemption under 501(c)(3) now have an easier method of filing, which has reduced the average time to receive an IRS Determination Letter to just a few weeks.
That new filing method is Form 1023-EZ, a shorter version of the original Form 1023, which is designed to streamline the application process for eligible nonprofits, and to reduce the IRS’s backlog of over 66,000 applications.
This post will cover the features of the new form, help you understand the form’s eligibility requirements, and lastly, touch upon how this affects your nonprofit.
First, let’s talk features. Here are three things you need to know about the form itself:
- It’s short. Unlike its 40-page cousin, the 1023-EZ is three pages. There is also a five-page “Eligibility Checklist,” which every nonprofit must complete before filing. Previously, the IRS estimated the 1023 filing should take an average of 100 hours. With the new form, that time is greatly reduced – down to just a few hours.
- You can file online. No more mailing a massive packet to the IRS. Pay, save your work, and submit everything through the IRS website.
- The IRS is processing this application at lightning speed. In July, IRS commissioner John Koskinen stated, the IRS would be “rubber-stamping” about 70% of all applications. So far, that’s held true. People have been receiving their determination letters in about two weeks.
You say my organization has to be eligible to file. What does that mean?
Not all nonprofit organizations can use Form 1023-EZ to apply for federal tax exemption. There are three main restrictions:
- Size. In order to be eligible, an organization must have under $50,000 in gross receipts, and under $250,000 in total assets. Larger organizations must use the original Form 1023.
- Organizational Structure. The entity must be organized as a nonprofit corporation. LLCs, L3Cs, and other entities are ineligible. The entity must be incorporated in one of the United States, the District of Columbia, or a territory, such as Puerto Rico.
- Activities. Certain types of organizations are ineligible, including schools, hospitals, churches, housing providers, and foundations. Review the Instructions to Form 1023-EZ and Eligibility Checklist to determine whether your organization must file Form 1023 instead. On the checklist, mark either “Yes” or “No” to each question, according to your organization’s activities. A single “Yes” means your organization is NOT eligible to file Form 1023-EZ, and you must use Form 1023.
By filing Form 1023-EZ, an organization declares that it complies with the IRS’s requirements. While this removes most of the initial scrutiny by the IRS, failure to disclose this information truthfully can still land your organization in hot water, and yourself in court as a perjurer.
So what does this all mean for your nonprofit?
As you already know, there are many steps to starting a nonprofit. In order to file for 501(c)(3) tax exemption, you must have consolidated your activities, incorporated, obtained an EIN, prepared bylaws and other internal documents, and come up with financial projections.
In other words, you must be prepared! All the steps leading up to filing the application are the same; only the time it takes to file Form 1023-EZ is reduced.
Arguably, there’s even more work to be done. With two forms to choose from, an organization must review its activities carefully, and select the more appropriate form to file.
Some organizations choose to file the full Form 1023, in order to disclose its activities to the IRS up front, rather than risk an audit in the future. Also of note: since releasing 1023-EZ, the IRS is processing the original form in an average of 3-4 months. For some, waiting a few months now, to avoid scrutiny later, is worth it.
Ultimately, make sure someone on your board, or an outside consultant, is able to help you sort through your options.
All in all, with the release of Form 1023-EZ, becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit just got a whole lot easier. If your organization falls into the 70% of eligible organizations, take full advantage of the IRS’s newest form of generosity, and get started today.