How to Start a Nonprofit | Step 4: Federal Filings

The National Council of Nonprofits does not provide legal assistance for organizations seeking assistance with their application for tax-exemption. We recommend you review: Applying for Tax-Exempt Status Resource Guide (LawforChange) and IRS StayExempt Tutorials that offer background on what it takes to become a 501(c)(3) organization that is recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt. See also IRS Publication 557. The IRS also offers its own booklet: Applying for 501c)(3) Status: Publication 4220 - and an interactive "checklist" to determine readiness for filing the IRS Form 1023, Application for Tax Exemption:

First Things First. Does The Organization Have an Appropriate Legal Form?

For the Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) to recognize an organization's exemption, the organization must be organized as a trust, a corporation, or an association. Is the organization a trust, corporation, or association?

Yes | No

Links to federal forms

Please note: The IRS now requires the individual who files the application for tax exemption (if he or she is not an attorney or CPA) to register with the IRS. Read more about this important change on Law For Change's blog.

Also, be aware that filing tax returns may be required for nonproft corporate entities that have been created as nonprofit organizations in a state, although they are not yet recognized as tax-exempt public charities by the IRS. If an organization in that situation has income, the income should be reported. We encourage you to check with tax preparation professionals for advice.