Six Important Facts about Tax-Exempt Organizations
March 27, 2009 – TT-2009-60
Every year, millions of taxpayers donate money to charitable organizations. Here are six things you should know about the tax treatment of tax-exempt organizations.
- Tax returns are made available to public. Exempt organizations generally must make their tax return available for public inspection. This also includes the organization’s application for exemption. These documents must be made available to any individual who requests them, and must be made available immediately when the request is made in person. If the request is made in writing, an organization has 30 days to provide a copy of the information.
- Donor lists generally are not public information. The list of donors filed with Form 990 is specifically excluded from the information available for public inspection. There is an exception for donors to private foundations and political organizations, which must make their donor list available to the public.
- How to find tax-exempt organizations. The easiest way to find out whether an organization is qualified to receive deductible contributions is to ask them, as most will be able to tell you. You can also search for organizations qualified to accept deductible contributions in IRS Publication 78, available online at IRS.gov.
- Which organizations may accept charitable contributions. Not all exempt organizations are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Organizations that are eligible to receive deductible contributions include most charities described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and, in some circumstances, fraternal organizations described in section 501(c)(8) or section 501(c)(10), cemetery companies described in section 501(c)(13), volunteer fire departments described in section 501(c)(4), and veterans organizations described in section 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(19). For more general information on the rules for Charitable Contribution Deductions, you can go to the IRS Publication 78 Help page, Part II, which is linked from the Search for Charities page on IRS.gov.
- Requirement for organizations not able to accept deductible contributions. If an exempt organization is ineligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, it must disclose that fact when soliciting contributions.
- How to report inappropriate activities by a charity. If you believe that the activities or operations of a tax-exempt organization are inconsistent with its tax-exempt status, you may file a complaint with the Exempt Organizations Examination Division by completing Form 13909, Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) Form. The complaint should contain all relevant facts concerning the alleged violation of tax law. Form 13909 is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).