Six Important Facts about Tax-Exempt Organizations
IRS Tax Tip 2010-59
Every year, millions of taxpayers donate money to charitable organizations. The IRS has put together the following list of six things you should know about the tax treatment of tax-exempt organizations.
- Annual returns are made available to the public. Exempt organizations generally must make their annual returns available for public inspection. This also includes the organization’s application for exemption. In addition, an organization exempt under 501(c)(3) must make available any Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return. These documents must be made available to any individual who requests them, and must be made available immediately when the request is made in person. If the request is made in writing, an organization has 30 days to provide a copy of the information, unless it makes the information widely available.
- Donor lists generally are not public information. The list of donors filed with Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, is specifically excluded from the information required to be made available for public inspection by the exempt organization. There is an exception, private foundations and political organizations must make their donor list available to the public.
- How to find tax-exempt organizations. The easiest way to find out whether an organization is qualified to receive deductible contributions is to ask them. You can ask to see an organization's exemption letter, which states the Code section that describes the organization and whether contributions made to the organization are deductible. You can also search for organizations qualified to accept deductible contributions in IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations and its Addendum, available at IRS.gov. Taxpayers can also confirm an organization’s status by calling the IRS at 877-829-5500.
- Which organizations may accept charitable contributions. Not all exempt organizations are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Organizations that are eligible to receive deductible contributions include most charities described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and, in some circumstances, fraternal organizations described in section 501(c)(8) or section 501(c)(10), cemetery companies described in section 501(c)(13), volunteer fire departments described in section 501(c)(4), and veterans organizations described in section 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(19).
- Requirement for organizations not able to accept deductible contributions. If an exempt organization is ineligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, it must disclose that fact when soliciting contributions.
- How to report inappropriate activities by an exempt organization. If you believe that the activities or operations of a tax-exempt organization are inconsistent with its tax-exempt status, you may file a complaint with the Exempt Organizations Examination Division by completing Form 13909, Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) Form. The complaint should contain all relevant facts concerning the alleged violation of tax law. Form 13909 is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions (PDF)
Form 13909, Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) Form (PDF)