Information concerning 501(c)(3) applications

General:

See Rev. Proc. 2011-9 for the most recent Q&A document concerning exempt organization determinations.

See also the I.R.M. in Part 7, Chapter 20, Section 1 for an overview of exempt organization determination letters, including information on how to change an organization’s operations and structure and request updated determination letters.

Changing an Exempt Organization’s Method of Operation or Purposes:

Issue:

Does an exempt organization need to request a determination ruling to ensure no change in the exempt status occurs if the organization changes its method of operation or purposes (i.e., by amending its articles of incorporation or bylaws)? Can the exempt organization avoid requesting a ruling by requesting a determination letter?

Discussion:

See the Internet publication “Exempt Organizations – Private Letter Rulings and Determination Letters” (or Rev. Proc. 2011-4) for information about getting a determination letter or ruling to ensure that a change in operations does not affect the determination as an exempt organization.

Each determination letter (including letter 1045 and others) includes a paragraph stating substantially the following: “If your organization’s sources of support, or its character, method of operations, or purposes have changed, please let us know so we can consider the effect of the change on the exempt status and foundation status of your organization.” This paragraph is an automatic paragraph in several standard IRS letters (see, e.g., I.R.M. 7.21.5).

Upon receipt of notice of a change affecting an exempt organization, the IRS may use letter 976 to confirm that such change does not affect the exempt status (and the exempt status letter) of the organization.

Whether or not the IRS will provide such letter in response to information it receives concerning changes is not clear.  Determination letters such as this are generally issued by the IRS EO Determinations office “only when a determination can be made based on clearly established rules in the statute, a tax treaty, or the regulations, or based on a conclusion in a revenue ruling, opinion, or court decision published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin that specifically answers the questions presented” (see Section 3.04, Section 7.01 and specifically Section 7.04 of Rev. Proc. 2011-4).  It follows, then, that all other decisions will be made only pursuant to a ruling (which is to be provided by EO Technical) or not at all (see Section 7.02 of Rev. Proc. 2011-4).

Examples:

PLR 200827038: Ruling requested that proposed amendment to articles and bylaws of an exempt organization will not affect the organization’s status as an organization described under section 501(c)(3) of the Code. The amendments increased the number of board members and made other changes that also implicated the organization’s status as a support organization.

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