Small charity grows and gets audited by the IRS for it!

A fellow CPA told me the story of what happened to a small charity.

The small charity thought they were eligible to file the new, easy, short IRS Form 1023-EZ to apply for 501c3 status.

Organizations can use the shorter, cheaper, online Form 1023-EZ if their annual gross revenues are less than $50,000/year and expect to be less than $50,000 for the next 3 years.

So off went the Form 1023-EZ application and the charity was granted 501c3 tax exempt status!

Then they held a fundraiser (or several fundraisers) that were successful beyond their dreams and their total revenue was OVER $50,000 in their second and third year. They filed (correctly) their annual information returns, Form 990-EZ, to report all their income and expenses.

That’s when they got a letter from the IRS.

The IRS was auditing them because the IRS claimed the charity should have filed the longer, more expensive, full Form 1023 when they applied because their annual revenues were more than $50,000/year. And the IRS was right, in hindsight.

The IRS auditor asked for:

  • The full application to be completed (its 26 pages!) along with copies of
  • Bylaws
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Financial statements for 5 years
  • A narrative explaining the activities of the organization
  • Minutes of meetings

That last requirement surprised me because the Form 1023 application doesn’t ask for minutes of meetings, but the IRS auditor did.

Fortunately this group had those minutes and with the help of their CPA, passed the audit!

Lessons learned:

  • Keep minutes of your meetings.
  • Have all your documents ready in case the IRS asks to see them.
  • If you are close to the $50,000 annual gross revenues threshold and think you could exceed it in your first 3 years, use the full length Form 1023 application form when applying for 501c3 tax exempt status.

 

 

Have more questions about the IRS, 501c3 tax exempt status, and your nonprofit?

Carol Topp’s book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization can help!

  • The benefits of 501(c)(3) status
  • The disadvantages too!
  • What it takes to make the IRS happy
  • What your state requires
  • Why your organization should consider becoming a nonprofit corporation
  • What is the difference between nonprofit incorporation and tax exemption
  • IRS requirements after you are tax exempt

Order here.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Government Intrusion and 501c3 Tax Exempt Status for Homeschool Groups

IRS-Building1

Hi Carol,

I am part of a homeschool group in Colorado.  We do not have a non-profit status and most people in our group do not want to organize that much.  Some of the people in our group have had some experiences with 501c3 status that the government has made them open their group up to individuals that they would not normally allow in their group because they are a government entity (like permitting someone not in our faith to teach a class).

Thank you so much for your help to the homeschool community and for whatever answers you can give us.

Sincerely,
Michelle P

 

Michelle,
Good for you in wanting to make sure that you are doing things properly in your homeschool group.

Your people are mistaken. Receiving 501(c)(3) tax exempt status does not make your organization a government entity; it simply means that you are exempt from paying income tax on your profit and donors can make tax-deductible contributions.  It’s a tax status.

501(c)(3) status does not mean you  must open up your group to everyone. You are free to set membership requirements and choose who teaches a class. Does a Catholic school have to allow non-Catholics teach in their school?  No. Sometimes a Catholic school may hire non-Catholic teachers, but the teacher usually must agree to uphold Catholic principles.

 

IRS and Your Homeschool Org cover

My book, The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization explains the pros and cons of applying for tax exempt status and the process and tips for getting approved.

The process to become tax exempt is not as scary or as difficult as it used to be. In 2014 the IRS introduced an easier, online application for small nonprofit organizations, the Form 1023-EZ.

 

Carol Topp, CPA

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