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General Instructions

Section references are to the Internal Revenue Code unless otherwise noted.

You” and “Us”.   Throughout these instructions and Form 1023, the terms “you” and “your” refer to the organization that is applying for tax-exempt status. The terms “us” and “we” refer to the Internal Revenue Service.

Definitions.   Terms in bold type in Form 1023 are defined throughout these instructions and in Appendix C.


Answer items completely. Where a “Yes” or “No” reply is not requested, you may answer “Not Applicable” where appropriate. If you believe you have previously answered the item, you may refer to your previous answer.

Your answers must provide sufficient detail about your past, present, and planned activities to prove that you are an exempt organization. We will not be able to recognize you as tax exempt based on generalizations. Therefore, we need to understand the specific activities you will undertake to reach your charitable goals.

Financial data.   Form 1023 asks you to answer a series of questions and provide information to assist us in determining if you meet the requirements for tax exemption under section 501(c)(3). One of the key pieces of information requested is financial data. This data, whether budgeted or actual, should be consistent with other information presented in the application.

  For example, if you are requesting public charity status under one of the public support tests, the financial data should show contributions from the public or receipts from providing exempt services. Budgeted financial data should be prepared based upon your current plans. We recognize that the organization's actual financial results may vary from the budgeted amounts.

Past, present, and planned activities.   Many items on Form 1023 are written in the present tense; however, your answers should be based on your past, present, and planned activities.

Language and currency requirements.   Prepare Form 1023 and attachments in English. Provide an English translation if the articles of organization or bylaws are in any other language.

  We may ask you to provide English translations of foreign language publications you submit with your Form 1023.

  Report financial information in U.S. dollars (specify the conversion rate used). Combine amounts from within and outside the United States and report the total for each line on the financial statements.

Purpose of Form

Completed Form 1023 required for section 501(c)(3) exemption.   Form 1023 is filed by organizations to apply for recognition of exemption from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3). Upon approval, we will issue a determination letter that provides written assurance about the organization's tax-exempt status, and its qualification to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Every organization qualifying for exemption under section 501(c)(3) will also be classified as either a “public charity” or a “private foundation.

Other organizations that may file Form 1023.   Other organizations that apply for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) by filing Form 1023 include section 501(e) and (f) cooperative service organizations, section 501(k) childcare organizations, and section 501(n) charitable risk pools.

Obtaining Tax-Exempt Status

To apply for tax-exempt status, file Form 1023 and pay the appropriate user fee.

Expedite Requests

We will only approve expedited processing of an application where a request is made in writing and contains a compelling reason for processing the application ahead of others. Circumstances generally warranting expedited processing include:

  • A grant to the applicant is pending and the failure to secure the grant may have an adverse impact on the organization's ability to continue operations.

  • The purpose of the newly created organization is to provide disaster relief to victims of emergencies such as flood and hurricane.

  • There have been undue delays in issuing a letter caused by problems within the IRS.

User Fee

The law requires payment of a user fee with each application. Submit the appropriate user fee based on your average annual gross receipts as indicated on Form 1023. Enclose payment with your application. DO NOT STAPLE or otherwise attach your check or money order to your application.

You may pay your user fee with a personal or certified check, bank check, or cashier's check. Processing your application will not be delayed by the form of payment unless your check is returned to us for insufficient funds.

Generally, a user fee will be refunded only if we decline to issue a determination. Additional guidance regarding user fees is available in Rev. Proc. 2006-8, 2006-1 I.R.B. 245, or later revision (revised in the first Internal Revenue Bulletin (I.R.B.) issued each year).

For additional information on the user fee, see Part XI.

Group Exemption

Form 1023 is not used to apply for a group exemption. A group exemption is issued to a central organization that recognizes on a group basis the exemption of subordinate organizations on whose behalf the central organization has applied. See Publication 557 for information on how to apply for a group exemption.

Leaving a group exemption.   If a subordinate organization in an existing group exemption wishes to apply for an individual exemption, it should notify its parent organization of its intention to leave the group ruling before filing Form 1023.

What to File

All applicants, unless otherwise noted, must complete Parts I through XI of Form 1023, plus any required schedules and attachments.

The following organizations must complete additional schedules to Form 1023.

IF your organization
is a(n) . . .
THEN you must file Schedule . . .
Church A
School, College, or University B
Hospital or Medical Research Organization C
Section 509(a) Supporting Organization D
Organization Not Filing Form 1023 Within 27 Months of Formation E
Home for the Elderly or Handicapped and Low-Income Housing F
Successor to Other Organizations G
Organization Providing Scholarships, Fellowships, Educational Loans, or Other Educational Grants to Individuals and Private Foundations Requesting Approval of Individual Grant Procedures H

Assembly of Application Package

To assist us in processing the application, documents should be submitted in the following order.

  • User fee enclosed but not attached to the application form.

  • Form 1023 Checklist.

  • Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative (if needed).

  • Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization (if needed).

  • Expedite request (if needed).

  • Application (Form 1023, Checklist, and Schedules A through H, as required).

  • Organizing document.

  • Amendments to organizing document in chronological order.

  • Bylaws or other rules of operation and amendments.

  • Documentation of nondiscriminatory policy for schools, as required by Schedule B.

  • Form 5768, Election/Revocation of Election by an Eligible Section 501(c)(3) Organization To Make Expenditures To Influence Legislation (if filing).

  • All other attachments, including explanations, financial data, and printed materials or publications.


Use an attachment where there is insufficient space on the form for you to legibly and accurately respond to a question. For any attachments submitted with your Form 1023:

  • Use 8½ x 11 inch paper.

  • Provide your name and Employer Identification Number (EIN) at the top of each page.

  • Identify the Part and line number to which the attachment relates.

Include any court decisions, rulings, opinions, or any other documents that will assist us in processing your Form 1023.

Generally, attachments in the form of tape, recordings or other electronic media are not acceptable unless accompanied by a transcript.

Attachments must be in English.

When to File

If you file Form 1023 within 27 months after the end of the month in which you were legally formed, and we approve the application, the legal date of formation will be the effective date of your exempt status.

If you do not file Form 1023 within 27 months of formation, you may not qualify for exempt status before the date we receive Form 1023. The date considered to be the date we receive Form 1023 is generally the postmark date. For exceptions and special rules, including automatic extensions, see Schedule E of Form 1023.

Where To File

Send the completed Form 1023 application, with all required information, and the applicable user fee to:

Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 192
Covington, KY 41012-0192

If you are using express mail or a delivery service, send the completed Form 1023 application, with all required information and user fee to:

Internal Revenue Service
201 West Rivercenter Blvd.
Attn: Extracting Stop 312
Covington, KY 41011

Private Delivery Services

In addition to the United States mail, you can use certain private delivery services designated by the IRS to meet the “timely mailing as timely filing/paying” rule for tax returns and payments. The most recent list of designated private delivery services includes only the following:

  • DHL Express (DHL): DHL “Same Day” Service; DHL Next Day 10:30 AM; DHL Next Day 12:00 PM; DHL Next Day 3:00 PM; and DHL 2nd Day Service.

  • Federal Express (FedEx): FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2Day, FedEx International Priority, and FedEx International First.

  • United Parcel Service (UPS): UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express.

The private delivery service can tell you how to get written proof of the mailing date.

Filing Assistance

For help in completing this form or general questions relating to an exempt organization, call the Exempt Organization Customer Account Services toll free at 1-877-829-5500. You may also access information on our website at

Listed below are a number of publications that may be helpful to your organization.

  • Publication 517, Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy and Religious Workers

  • Publication 526, Charitable Contributions

  • Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization

  • Publication 598, Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations

  • Publication 1771, Charitable Contributions Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements

  • Publication 1828, Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations

  • Publication 3079, Gaming Publication for Tax-Exempt Organizations

  • Publication 3833, Disaster Relief: Providing Assistance through Charitable Organizations

  • Publication 4220, Applying for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status

  • Publication 4221, Compliance Guide for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations

  • Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations Described in Section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (searchable online at

Philanthropic Research, Inc., aka GuideStar, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, maintains information about specific section 501(c)(3) organizations (searchable online at

Signature Requirements

An officer, director, trustee, or other official who is authorized to sign for the organization must sign Form 1023 at the end of Part XI. The signature must be accompanied by the title or authority of the signer and the date. Please clearly print the accompanying information.


Form 2848.   Attach a completed Form 2848 if you want to authorize a representative to represent you regarding your application. An individual authorized by Form 2848 may not sign the application unless that person is also an officer, director, trustee, or other official who is authorized to sign the application.

A centralized authorization file (CAF) number is not required to be listed on Form 2848.

Form 8821.   Form 8821 authorizes us to discuss your application with the person you have appointed.

  Form 8821 does not authorize your appointee to advocate your position with respect to the Federal tax laws; to execute waivers, consents, or closing agreements; or to otherwise represent you before the IRS. If you want to authorize an individual to represent you, use Form 2848.

After You Submit Form 1023

We will acknowledge receiving your application in writing. You may expect to receive this notice within 21 days of the postmark date of the Form 1023. Read the notice thoroughly because it will provide further information about the processing of your Form 1023.

No additional information needed.   If our initial review shows that you qualify, we will send you a letter stating that you are exempt under section 501(c)(3) and whether you are a public charity or a private foundation.

Additional information needed.   If the initial review shows that we need additional information or changes, we will assign Form 1023 to a specialist who will call or write you. Generally, we assign applications in the order we receive them. Unless the application is approved for expedited processing, it will be worked in the order received.

  If the additional information indicates that you qualify, we will send you a letter stating that you are exempt under section 501(c)(3) and whether you are a public charity or a private foundation. If we conclude that you do not qualify for exemption, we will send you a letter that explains our position and your appeal rights.

Annual Filing Requirements

If an annual information return or tax return is due while the Form 1023 is pending, complete the return, mark “Application Pending” in the heading, and send the return to the address indicated in the instructions.

Information on return filing requirements and exceptions may be found in Publications 557 and 598 and in the instructions to the annual returns listed in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Table of Annual Returns

Type of Annual Return Who Should File
Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax Section 501(c)(3) public charities
Form 990-EZ, Short Form Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax Section 501(c)(3) public charities whose gross receipts during the year were less than $100,000 and total assets at the end of the year were less than $250,000
Schedule A (Form 990 or 990-EZ), Organization Exempt under Section 501(c)(3) Section 501(c)(3) public charities
Schedule B (Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF), Schedule of Contributors All section 501(c)(3) organizations
Form 990-PF, Return of Private Foundation Private foundations, including private operating foundations
Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return Public charities and private foundations that have gross unrelated business income of $1,000 or more

You may also be required to file other returns, such as employment tax returns or benefit plan returns, which are not discussed here.

Public Inspection

Information available for public inspection.   If we approve exempt status under section 501(c)(3), the following information will be open for public inspection.
  • Your complete Form 1023 and any supporting documents.

  • All correspondence between you and the IRS concerning Form 1023, including Form 2848.

  • The letter we issue approving your exemption.

  • Annual information returns (Forms 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF).

  • Schedule A, included with Forms 990 or 990-EZ.

  • Schedule B, included with Forms 990 or 990-EZ, except the names and addresses of contributors and other identifying information about contributors.

  • Schedule B, included with Form 990-PF, including names, addresses and other identifying information about contributors.

Information not available for public inspection.   The following items will not be open for public inspection.

  • Any information relating to a trade secret, patent, style of work, or apparatus that, if released, would adversely affect you. (We must approve withholding this information.)

  • Any other information that would adversely affect the national defense. (We must approve withholding this information.)

  • User fee check.

  • Information only applications from the United States Virgin Islands, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and related supporting documents.

  • Contributors' names and addresses and identifying information about contributors included with Forms 990 or 990-EZ and the Schedule B, filed with these forms.

  • Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return.

  When applying for tax-exempt status, you must clearly identify any information that is not open for public inspection by separately marking it as “NOT SUBJECT TO PUBLIC INSPECTION” and attaching an explanation of why you are asking for the information to be withheld. We will decide whether to withhold the identified information from public inspection.

Making documents available for public inspection.   Both you and the IRS must make the information that is subject to disclosure available for public inspection. The public may contact us toll-free at 1-877-829-5500 to request public inspection or copies of the information. The public may also request inspection of the information or a copy of the information directly from you.

  An exempt organization may post the documents required to be available for public inspection on its own website. The information return and exemption application materials must be posted exactly as filed with the IRS. Only the information that is not open for public inspection may be deleted.

  If an exempt organization posts the documents on its website, it must provide notice of the website address where the documents may be found, but it need not provide copies of the information. However, documents posted on an organization's website must still be made available for public inspection without charge at its main office during regular business hours.

   Documents are not considered available for public inspection on a website if the otherwise disclosable information is edited or subject to editing by a third party when posted. To date, the IRS has not approved any third party websites for posting.

  See Publication 557 for additional guidance on public inspection.

Foreign Organizations in General

Foreign organizations are those that were created in countries other than the United States, its territories, or its possessions. Foreign organizations may apply for tax-exempt status on income earned in the United States in the same way that domestic organizations apply for exempt status. See, Language and currency requirements.

A foreign organization applying for exempt status should complete all required parts of Form 1023. There are, however, special rules below for some Canadian organizations.

Contributions by U.S. residents to foreign organizations generally are not deductible. Tax treaties between the U.S. and certain foreign countries provide specific limited exceptions.

Annual returns for foreign organizations.   A foreign organization that obtains exemption as a public charity must file an information return annually (Form 990 or Form 990-EZ). A foreign organization that is a private foundation must file Form 990-PF annually. However, a foreign organization, other than a private foundation, may be relieved from filing Form 990 or Form 990-EZ in any year in which it has gross receipts from U.S. source income of $25,000 or less and has not conducted significant activity in the United States. See the Instructions for Form 990 and Form 990-EZ, and the Instructions for Form 990-PF for further information. A foreign organization that is subject to unrelated business income tax must file Form 990-T.

Canadian Organizations

Canadian organizations that have received a Notification of Registration from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (formerly, Revenue Canada), and whose registrations have not been revoked (“Canadian registered charities”), are automatically recognized as section 501(c)(3) organizations and are not required to file Form 1023. Canadian registered charities are also presumed to be private foundations. A Canadian registered charity may complete certain portions of the Form 1023 in order to be listed as a section 501(c)(3) organization in IRS Publication 78, or to request classification as a public charity, rather than a private foundation. A Canadian registered charity should only complete and submit the following documents.

  • Copy of its Notification of Registration.

  • Part I of Form 1023.

  • Part X of Form 1023 (if requesting public charity classification).

  • Signature line in Part XI of Form 1023.

  • Form 8833, Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b).

  • No user fee is required.

Organizations Created in United States Territories and Possessions

Organizations created in possessions and territories of the United States are generally treated as domestic organizations. These organizations complete all required parts of Form 1023 to apply for exempt status under section 501(c)(3). Special rules, discussed below, apply to some Virgin Islands organizations.

Charitable contributions to organizations created in United States possessions and territories are deductible by the donors if the organization qualifies for exempt status under section 501(c)(3).

Virgin Islands Organizations

The United States Virgin Islands, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) may request an information only letter concerning the exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of an organization formed in the Virgin Islands. The organization itself does not seek U.S. recognition of exempt status. The information only procedure requires the BIR to complete Form 1023 and supporting documents for the organization, but does not require a user fee payment. The application and supporting documents are not open for public inspection (see Public Inspection, for more information).

All other Virgin Islands organizations that seek U.S. recognition of exempt status under section 501(c)(3) must follow the normal application process.

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