Although the most common type of nonprofit organization is the 501(c)(3), which is recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS, there are many other forms a nonprofit organization can take. The 501(c)(3) organizations are generally the ones people most often donate to, volunteer for, or see media coverage about, but there are many other types which are registered by the IRS, all with different designations. This article contains brief summaries of each of the “501c” series of nonprofit organizations. Consulting with a nonprofit law attorney is a good idea when considering formation of any of the following types of nonprofit organization.
The following is a listing of the different types of nonprofits recognized by the IRS. The same information can also be found in IRS Publication 557. That publication will likely act as your bible if you are thinking of forming a nonprofit organization. Additionally, IRS Publication 526 offers detailed information regarding which of these organizations may accept tax-deductible donations. Use these publications to further educate yourself about the different nonprofit classifications.
This nonprofit form is organized under an Act of Congress. A good example of this form of nonprofit organization is a Federal Credit Union. 501(c)(1)’s do not need to file annual tax returns, and may accept tax-exempt contributions that are made exclusively for public purposes.
This form of nonprofit organization are holding corporations for other exempt organizations. This means that a 501(c)(2) may hold title to property belonging to an exempt group. These organization apply for status as a “nonprofit” by submitting a complete copy of IRS form 1024. Annually, a 501(c)(2) will file either Form 990 or Form 990EZ.
This nonprofit form is by far the most common kind of nonprofit. This category includes groups that are educational, religious, literary and scientific, organizations who test for the safety of the public, who cultivate international or natural amateur sports competitions, or who engage in preventing of cruelty against animals or children.
A 501(c)(3) will apply for its tax-exempt status by completing and filing IRS Form 1023, which requires information on various aspects of the organization’s activities, finances, purpose, etc. This kind of organization will also annually file IRS Forms 990, 990EZ,or 990PF. Generally, public contributions made to this kind of nonprofit are tax-exempt.
All 501(c)(3) nonprofits will be classified as one of two things:
This form of nonprofit is comprised of organizations for social welfare associations of employees, or civic leagues. The primary function of these nonprofits is the promotion of community welfare, or recreational or educational goals. One applies for 501(c)(4) status by submitting to the IRS a completed copy of Form 1024. These organizations also need to annually file Form 990 or 990EZ.
This category of nonprofit is comprised of organizations in the realm of agriculture, labor, and horticulture. These nonprofits are generally instructive or educational, and aim to improve working conditions, products, and efficiency within the agricultural and horticultural field. Application is completed upon submission of IRS Form 1024, and the organization will be made to annually submit Form 990 or 990EZ.
A 501(c)(6) nonprofit is usually a real estate board, a chamber of commerce, a business league, etc. These organizations aim to improve business conditions, and apply for nonprofit status by submitting Form 1024. Like most other nonprofit forms, they will annually file a Form 990 or 990EZ.
In this category of nonprofits are recreational and social clubs. These organizations are ones who function to promote social activities, pleasure, and recreation. As you may have guessed by now, the application for 501(c)(7) status is completed by submitting IRS Form 1024. These organizations will also annually submit Form 990 or 990EZ.
This form of nonprofit is comprised of fraternal beneficiary associations and societies. These organizations usually provide their members with payment of accident, sickness, or life insurance benefits. Like the nonprofits listed above, application is completed by submitting Form 1024. These organizations will also file Form 990 or 990EZ annually.
A 501(c)(9) is usually an employees’ beneficiary association entered into voluntarily. These organizations will pay for sickness, life, accident, and other benefits to their members. Application consists of Form 1024, and the organization will also need to file Form 990 or 990EZ annually.
This form of nonprofit is usually a domestic fraternal association or society, such as a lodge who devotes its earnings to fraternal, charitable, or other specific purposes. These organizations do not offer any accident, health, or sickness benefits to their members. Application consists of Form 1024, and Form 990 or 990EZ must be filed annually on the organization’s behalf.
This form of nonprofit is usually a teacher’s retirement fund association, which provides for payment of retirement benefits to retired educators. One can apply by filing IRS form 1024, and will annually file either Form 990 or 990EZ.
This classification is for cemetery companies, which may make loans to their members. Again, application consists of submission of Form 1024 to the IRS. Annually, the organization will need to file Form 990 or 990EZ.
These are usually credit unions or mutual reserve funds chartered by states, that make loans to their members. Though the yearly filing requirements are the same as the nonprofit forms listed above, there is no application form required for a 501(c)(14).
This nonprofit form is comprised of mutual insurance associations or companies who offer insurance to their members, usually at a cost. Application for this form involves submission of IRS Form 1024. Form 990 or 990EZ must be filed annually.
This nonprofit form is assigned to cooperative organizations who offer financing for cropping operations along with engaging in the activities of a purchasing or marketing association. There is no form necessary for application, but the organization must annually file Form 990 or 990EZ.
These are supplemental unemployment benefit trusts, which pay out supplemental unemployment and compensation benefits to members. Application for 501(c)(17) status consists of filing Form 1024, and the organization is required to annually submit Form 990 or 990EZ.
This form of nonprofit organization is reserved for pension trusts funded by employees, which came into being prior to June 25th of 1959, and which pay out benefits. There is not application form required for these nonprofits, but they must annually file Form 990 or 990EZ.
This category of nonprofit organizations is comprised of organizations of current of former United States military members, which engage in activities appropriate to the nature of the organization. To apply for 501(c)(19) status, Form 1024 must be submitted. Annually, Form 990 or 990EZ must be filed.
These organizations are group legal services plan organizations. Application consists of submission of Form 1024, and Form 990 or 990EZ must be filed annually.
This form of nonprofit is specifically for “black lung” benefit trusts, which are generally funded by those who formerly operated coal mines and must pay their liabilities with regard to death or disability of former coal miners resulting from Black Lung. Though there is no application form requirement, a 501(c)(21) must file tax Form 990-BL.
In this nonprofit category are withdrawal liability payment funds, which provide funding to satisfy the liabilities of employers by withdrawing payment from multi-employer pension funds. No application form is required, but an organization with this status must annually file Form 990 or 990EZ.
This status is reserved for Veterans’ Organizations that came into being prior to the year 1880, which provides veterans benefits (including insurance benefits). There is no required application form, but Form 990 or 990EZ must be filed annually.
This nonprofit form is either a title holding corporation or a trust with multiple parents, which holds title and pays income from real property to less than 35 beneficiaries or parents. This organization must apply using Form 1024, and must annually file Form 990 or 990EZ.
These are state-sponsored organizations that provide healthcare insurance and costs for individuals who are considered “high-risk.” There is no form necessary to apply, but Form 990 or 990EZ must be filed annually.
This nonprofit form is reserved for state-sponsored worker’s comp reinsurance organizations, who pay their members for their losses suffered pursuant to workers compensation acts. There is no form required for application, though Form 990 or 990EZ must be filed each year.