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Churches do NOT need a 501(c)3 Exemption
to receive Tax-deductible Gifts?
from a Church Treasurer
[COMMENT: The information below was a stunner to me. I had had 40 years of ministry, much of it parish related, and did not find out the truth until I was 75 years old. The information below is from the indicated government websites. The bracketed emphases were made by the treasurer, "RCS"]. I put a ? in the title, not because I doubt the issue, but to disclaim any responsibility for how anyone else might use this information. Check it out for yourself, and make your own decisions. See further comments at the end.
In addition to the material below, go to
http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/do-churches-need-501c3-status/ for an
extended article on the matter. NOTE: the link to the Alliance
Defense Fund is broken. Go instead to
And, also, this extraordinary article by Gary North, on whether corporations as such are valid for Christians and churches to enter into. Or are they developments out of the secularization of government??? E. Fox]
Publication 526 (2009), Charitable Contributions
Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions
You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS.
[NOTE: This indicates that churches do not need to apply to the IRS in order for donors to receive tax deductions. This publication does not, however, define churches. That definition is found in publication 557. RCS]
Publication 557 (2010) Tax-Exempt Status for your Organization:
To determine whether an organization meets the religious purposes test of section 501(c)(3), the IRS maintains two basic guidelines.
That the particular religious beliefs of the organization are truly and sincerely held.
That the practices and rituals associated with the organization's religious belief or creed are not illegal or contrary to clearly defined public policy.
Therefore, your group (or organization) may not qualify for treatment as an exempt religious organization for tax purposes if its actions, as contrasted with its beliefs, are contrary to well established and clearly defined public policy. If there is a clear showing that the beliefs (or doctrines) are sincerely held by those professing them, the IRS will not question the religious nature of those beliefs.
Although a church, its integrated auxiliaries, or a convention or association of churches is not required to file Form 1023 to be exempt from federal income tax or to receive tax deductible contributions, the organization may find it advantageous to obtain recognition of exemption. In this event, you should submit information showing that your organization is a church, synagogue, association or convention of churches, religious order, or religious organization that is an integral part of a church, and that it is engaged in carrying out the function of a church.
[NOTE: This has come up several times during my time on the Vestry at St. Xxxxxx's. We have generally felt that there was no particular benefit to filing with the IRS. There is nothing in this definition that excludes discussion of political topics or candidates. Here is the definition of Political Organization from elsewhere in publication 557. RCS]:
Political Organization Income Tax Return
Generally, a political organization is treated as an organization exempt from tax. Certain political organizations, however, must file an annual income tax return, Form 1120-POL, for any year they have political organization taxable income in excess of the $100 specific deduction allowed under section 527.
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Date Posted - 03/23/2012 - Date Last Edited - 08/24/2012