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Publication 557 - Introductory Material


What's New

Future developments.The IRS has created a page on IRS.gov for information about Publication 557, at IRS.gov/pub557. Information about any future developments affecting Publication 557 (such as legislation enacted after we release it) will be posted on that page.

New Form 8976. New legislation enacted at the end of 2015 added section 506 to the Internal Revenue Code. Section 506 requires an organization to notify the IRS of its intent to operate as a section 501(c)(4) organization. The IRS has developed a new form, Form 8976, Notice of Intent to Operate Under Section 501(c)(4), that organizations should use to provide this notification. Form 8976 may only be completed and submitted electronically at: IRS.gov/charities-non-profits/electronically-submit-your-form-8976-notice-of-intent-to-operate-under-section-501c4 . There is no paper form.

Reminders

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The ACA added several new laws. This includes a new excise tax on indoor tanning services, a small business health care tax credit, additional requirements for tax-exempt hospitals, and the section 501(c)(29) CO-OP program. For more information, go to IRS.gov and select Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions.

Electronic filing requirement for large organizations. For tax years ending on or after December 31, 2006, only organizations that file 250 returns during the calendar year and that have total assets of $10 million or more are required to file Form 990 electronically. For more information, go to e-file for Charities and Non-Profits.

Section 501(c)(15) gross receipts.  The definition of gross receipts for purposes of determining whether small insurance companies qualify as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(15) can be found in Notice 2006-42, 2006-19 I.R.B. 878.

Prohibited tax shelter transactions. Excise taxes are imposed under section 4965 on certain tax-exempt organizations entering into prohibited tax shelter transactions. See the Regulations in T.D. 9492, Excise Taxes on Prohibited Tax Shelter Transactions and Related Disclosure Requirements, 2010-33 I.R.B. 242. See IRS Issues Final Regulations Regarding Excise Taxes on Prohibited Tax Shelter Transactions and Related Disclosure Requirement.

Introduction

This publication discusses the rules and procedures for organizations that seek recognition of exemption from federal income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code). It explains the procedures you must follow to obtain an appropriate ruling or determination letter recognizing your organization's exemption, as well as certain other information that applies generally to all exempt organizations. To qualify for exemption under the Code, your organization must be organized for one or more of the purposes specifically designated in the Code. Organizations that are exempt under section 501(a) include those organizations described in section 501(c). Section 501(c) organizations are covered in this publication.

Chapter 1, Application, Approval, and Appeal Procedures, provides general information about the procedures for obtaining recognition of tax-exempt status.

Chapter 2, Filing Requirements and Required Disclosures, contains information about annual filing requirements and other matters that may affect your organization's tax-exempt status.

Chapter 3, Section 501(c)(3) Organizations, contains detailed information on various matters affecting section 501(c)(3) organizations, including a section on the determination of private foundation status.

Chapter 4, Other Section 501(c) Organizations, includes separate sections for specific types of organizations described in section 501(c).

Chapter 5, Excise Taxes, provides information on when excise taxes may be imposed.

Organizations not discussed in this publication.   Certain organizations that may qualify for exemption aren't discussed in this publication, although they are included in the Organization Reference Chart. These organizations (and the Code sections that apply to them) are as follows.
Corporations organized under Acts of Congress 501(c)(1)
Teachers' retirement fund associations 501(c)(11)
Mutual insurance companies 501(c)(15)
Corporations organized to finance crop operations 501(c)(16)
Employee funded pension trusts (created before June 25, 1959) 501(c)(18)
Withdrawal liability payment fund 501(c)(22)
Veterans' organizations (created before 1880) 501(c)(23)
National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust 501(c)(28)
Religious and apostolic associations 501(d)
Cooperative hospital service organizations 501(e)
Cooperative service organizations of operating educational organizations 501(f)

  Section 501(c)(24) organizations (section 4049 ERISA trusts) are neither discussed in the text nor listed in the Organization Reference Chart.

  Similarly, farmers' cooperative associations that qualify for exemption under section 521, qualified state tuition programs described in section 529, and pension, profit-sharing, and stock bonus plans described in section 401(a) aren't discussed in this publication. If you think your organization falls within one of these categories, contact the IRS for any additional information you need. For telephone assistance, call 1-877-829-5500.

  Check the Table of Contents at the beginning of this publication to determine whether your organization is described in this publication. If it is, read the chapter (or section) that applies to your type of organization for the specific information you must give when applying for recognition of exemption.

Organization Reference Chart.   The Organization Reference Chart enables you to locate at a glance the section of the Code under which your organization might qualify for exemption. It also shows the required application form and, if your organization meets the exemption requirements, the annual return to be filed (if any), and whether or not a contribution to your organization will be deductible by a donor. It also describes each type of qualifying organization and the general nature of its activities.

  You may use the Organization Reference Chart to determine the Code section that you think applies to your organization. Any correspondence with the IRS (in requesting forms or otherwise) will be expedited if you indicate in your correspondence the appropriate Code section. Check the IRS website, IRS.gov, for the latest updates, Tax Information for Charities & Other Non-Profits, IRS.gov/charities/index.html.

Comments and suggestions.    We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.

  You can send us comments from IRS.gov/formspubs. Click on “More Information” and then on “Give us feedback.

  Or you can write to:

Internal Revenue Service 
Tax Forms and Publications 
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526 
Washington, DC 20224

  We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.

  Although we cannot respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.

Ordering forms and publications.    Visit IRS.gov/formspubs to download forms and publications. Otherwise, you can go to IRS.gov/orderforms to order current and prior-year forms and instructions. Your order should arrive within 10 business days.

Tax questions.   If you have a tax question not answered by this publication, check IRS.gov and How To Get Tax Help at the end of this publication.


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