Federal Tax Obligations of Non-Profit Corporations


Non-profit status may make an organization eligible for certain benefits, such as state sales, property, and income tax exemptions; however, this corporate status does not automatically grant exemption from federal income tax. To be tax exempt, most organizations must apply for recognition of exemption from the Internal Revenue Service to obtain a ruling or determination letter recognizing tax exemption.

If you intend to apply to the IRS for recognition of federal tax-exempt status as a charitable organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, your articles of incorporation must contain certain provisions. For more information, see Required Provisions for Organizing Documents.

To be exempt under section 501(c)(3) from the date of creation, an organization must apply within 27 months after  the end of the month in which it was created.

To learn about the general requirements for federal tax-exempt status, visit charities or download IRS Publication 557 PDF, Tax Exempt Status for Your Organization.

Although certain types of organizations are not required to apply for recognition of exemption, many do so in order to clarify their tax status. A user fee must accompany an exemption application. The IRS will not process an application until the user fee is paid.

Applications used to file for exemption

Section 501(c)(3) organizations

Non-501(c)(3) organizations

Other help available from the IRS

Download forms and publications; or call 800-829-3676 (toll-free)

Charities and Nonprofits website

  • Life Cycles: Web-based information tools to help tax-exempt organizations comply with requirements that occur throughout the life cycle of their organization
  • IRS Stay Exempt site: tax basics for exempt organizations presented using web-based training modules and mini-courses
  • EO Update: free electronic newsletter with information for tax-exempt organizations and tax practitioners who represent them

TE/GE Customer Service: 877-829-5500 (toll free)