Before you can be sure that tax-exempt status is right for you, you’ll need to understand some of the benefits and responsibilities that come with tax-exemption, the steps required to become tax-exempt, and the rules your organization must follow after you apply.
You must admit there are a lot of financial benefits to applying for tax exempt:
- exemption from federal income tax
- contributions to your organization are tax-deductible
- you may be exempt from paying state income, sales, and employment taxes.
- you have access to reduced postal rates
- you are exempt from paying federal unemployment tax, and
- you can receive tax-exempt financing.
With all these great benefits, comes great responsibilities.
Responsibilities include recordkeeping, certain annual filing requirements, and disclosure requirements.
• Keep detailed recordkeeping
You should keep detailed records, including records you’d probably want to keep for any business. For example, you’re required to keep books and records detailing all activities, both financial and non-financial.
Annual Filings can include
• Form 990
• Form 990-EZ
• Form 990-N (Post Card)
The IRS doesn’t need to see all of your records on a regular basis. But the records you keep will allow you to have everything you may need to submit your required annual filings.
Most public charities recognized as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Code are required to file an annual information return: either Form 990 or Form 990-EZ.
Certain categories of organizations are exempted from filing Form 990 or Form 990-EZ – including churches and very small organizations. However, most small organizations that aren’t required to file Form 990 or 990-EZ must file an annual electronic notice, the Form 990-N, also known as the e-Postcard.
There are specific records that need to be made public upon request. Section 501(c)(3) organizations must make their exemption application and the three most recent annual information returns (your Form 990s) available to the public, upon request and without charge (except for a reasonable charge for copying). If your organization has $1,000 or more in gross income from an unrelated business, it must file Form 990-T,
Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, and that must be made available as well.
You should make the documents available at the organization’s principal office during regular business hours and requests can be made in person or in writing