Creating a Tax Exempt Organization

In order to fulfill their purposes as efficiently as possible, various organizations can operate tax-free under federal and Illinois laws. To create a tax-exempt organization, one must follow certain rules and procedures. Otherwise, it can result in messy legal entanglements that will debilitate your organization.

Types of Tax-Exempt Entities

There are numerous types of tax-exempt entities, but most of them fall under the 501(c)(3) distinction. This corporation structure includes the following types of organizations:

  • Charitable
  • Scientific
  • Religious
  • Educational/literary
  • Testing for public safety
  • Preventing cruelty to animals or children
  • Promoting amateur sports competition, either nationally or internationally

Of course, this list is not comprehensive, and there are many other types of organizations that can qualify for tax-exempt status.


Illinois and federal laws detail various requirements for an organization to qualify as a tax-exempt corporation. These requirements include:

  • A board of directors with three (3) or more directors
  • At least one incorporator who is either an individual 18 years old or older or a corporation
  • The entity must be designed to provide public benefit and NOT profit an individual
  • A unique name

The name of the entity must keep within certain additional limitations, including:

  • Distinguishable from other entities
  • Include “NFP” if the name in any way implies that it is organized for anything other than non-profit purposes as detailed in the Illinois General Not For Profit Corporation Act
  • Contains no political party names without consent from that party’s State Central Committee

Assuming these requirements are met, your entity should be able to operate on a tax-exempt basis.

Articles of Incorporation

Ultimately, 501(c)(3) entities are corporations, so they must form up as a corporation would. In Illinois, this means they must draft their not-for-profit articles of incorporation and file them with the Secretary of State’s office.

In order to truly give you tax-exempt status, you need to be careful to include language that will satisfy requirements set forth by the IRS. Outside legal assistance is invaluable here since it will help avoid any unpleasant surprises when it comes time to figure out taxes.

Corporate Governance

  • As a corporation, your entity also needs to operate as other corporations do. This means:
  • Drafting bylaws
  • Holding meetings with the board of directors, including an initial organizational meeting
  • Keeping careful records

If these are lacking in any way, you may lose your status as a corporate entity and potentially lose your tax-exempt designation.

Filing for Tax-Exempt Status

Once your tax-exempt entity is set up and all appropriate paperwork is filed with the state, you need to apply for tax-exempt status with the IRS. The form you’ll use is IRS Form 1023 in which you’ll provide highly detailed information about your organization’s structure, finances, history, policies, and so forth. Smaller nonprofits may be able to use Form 1023-EZ, which is a simplified version of Form 1023.

Once you are approved by the IRS, you may wish to apply for additional tax exemptions through the state, such as sales tax. An experienced corporate lawyer, like us at Hart David Carson, LLP, can assist you with the process of forming a tax-exempt organization while steering you clear of any pitfalls.

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