Tax Law Blog: Interactive Form to Assist in Applying for 501(c)(3) Status

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The IRS has started a "Stay Exempt" program for exempt organizations to assist in applying for and maintaining tax-exempt status. The website has tips and links to resources and online training videos in an effort to "ensure all customers understand and meet their tax responsibilities." As part of the program, the IRS has released an interactive Form 1023 to assist in preparing the Form 1023 Application for Recognition of Exemption under section 501(c)(3).

The website starts with a set of 7 questions to ensure the user has all prerequisite documentation to complete the Form 1023 (including EIN, organizational documents with proper purpose and dissolution clauses, and a Form 2848 power of attorney if applicable). As you go through each step, there are links to the necessary documents if you state you haven't applied for an EIN or you need a Form 2848.

Once you complete the initial questionnaire, you will receive a link to the interactive Form 1023. Each question has a Help button which includes specific instructions relating to that line/question. You can also click  "Provide Details" in certain sections that may require additional information to create a supplemental page for the additional required information (such as the Part IV Narrative Description of Activities). As you answer certain questions which may require a Schedule to be attached, you can click a link to add that Schedule to the interactive form. It seems this is the better method to ensure you are including the proper schedules (as opposed to the paper form which includes all schedules, and the user must remember to fill out the applicable schedules and discard the others).

The section in Part X to request an advanced ruling which is no longer used (but is still on the Form because the Form has not been revised since 2006) is shaded a dark gray and red "X" button tells you not to complete the section. Additionally, there is a text box with the correct user fees on the last page to cover the old and incorrect user fee that still shows on the actual form. Both of these features would be very helpful to someone not familiar with the form and the change in requirements.

I have not had the chance to actually use the interactive form, other than clicking a few buttons this morning, but on first impression it seems to be helpful to both practitioners and organizations looking to see what the process entails. For a practitioner some of the information acts as a reminder and the "Help" information is readily accessible. For an organization that is just starting out and wants to see what the steps are for applying for tax exempt status, and what types of documentation are necessary, I think this website could be very beneficial.