IRS Introduces Form 1023-EZ

Form 1023-EZThe IRS is planning to release a simplified version of Form 1023, known as Form 1023-EZ. Currently, the draft simplified application will be only three pages long. In its current form, it appears that the Form 1023-EZ will not require applicants to submit narrative descriptions, governing documents, financials, or other original documents. Instead, the IRS will rely on representations by the applicants to determine whether applicants qualify for tax-exemption.

The goal of the streamlined application process is to permit small charities without complex issues to get up and running more quickly. The streamlined application will also permit the IRS to spend less time reviewing applications and more time focusing its energies on monitoring compliance for organizations that have been approved.

Small organizations with actual or anticipated revenues of no more than $200,000 and assets of no more than $500,000 will be eligible to file 1023-EZ so long as they are not disqualified based on their planned activities. While the draft form and instructions are not entirely clear, it appears that those organized as an LLC or seeking classification as a church, school, hospital, foreign organization, or supporting organization will not be eligible to file Form 1023-EZ.

Rather than requesting details about the applicant’s compensation plans, grant making plans, scholarships, etc. the form requires applicants to respond to a simple checklist regarding activities they will engage in.  Further, applicants must attest that the organization has not and will not engage in private inurement, be organized and operated primarily for purposes other than the exempt purposes, engage in illegal activities, engage in political activity, devote more than a insubstantial amount of time to influencing legislation, or provide commercial type insurance. The draft instructions do not indicate a user fee but it is anticipated that there will be a reduced user fee.

According to Sunita Lough, the IRS commissioner of tax exempt and government entities, the new Form 1023-EZ will be released in mid- to late summer.

We submitted comments recommending, among other things, that the IRS continue to require governing documents. Submission of governing documents is not burdensome on applicants and is important as many applicants are not trained to evaluate whether the basic criteria for exemption have been met. Relying on applicants to simply attest whether their documents comply creates a trap for the unwary and is likely to lead to innocent mistakes that will be difficult to correct once exemption has been granted.

While I applaud the IRS creativity in looking for more efficient ways to process applications for exemption, the current Form 1023 forces applicants to articulate their plans in a manner that mimics creating a business plan and provides some education along the way. In contrast, the streamlined 1023-EZ is likely to exacerbate the proliferation of nonprofits and result in a marked increase in the number of applicants who are not prepared to run a nonprofit.

Ellis Carter is a nonprofit attorney licensed to practice in Washington and Arizona. Ellis advises tax-exempt clients on federal tax matters nationwide.

6 Responses to IRS Introduces Form 1023-EZ

  1. Your last paragraph commentary is exactly right, Ellis. This is going to be train wreck if it goes through. Having worked with many thousands of startup nonprofits…enough to be able to predict the future…this will only encourage disregard for compliance.

    Fortunately, it isn’t happening without robust protest. The National Council of Nonprofits submitted a 9 page blistering denouncement to the OMB imploring them to not approve the IRS Form 1023-EZ and for the IRS withdraw the proposal.

    I also spoke with a state Charitable Solicitations director this afternoon and he informed me NASCO submitted a 9 page plea to OMB to reject Form 1023-EZ. He indicated that both NASCO and the Nat’l Association of Attorneys General were adamantly opposed.

    We can only hope sanity wins the day.

  2. I absolutely agree with Greg. I was so pleased to initially read about the EZ form, it was much needed BUT they went too far. 2 pages is just way to short and way to easy and will lead to a proliferation of idiots filing for 100’s of rinky dink little nonprofits (sorry for being so blunt)

  3. […] a blog post last April, nonprofit attorney Ellis Carter was mixed on the new […]

  4. Seems to me it will encourage compliance. How many rinky dink operations are claiming to be non profits but have never done any filings? In my small town there are probably at least a dozen. This makes it much more likely they will do the filings.

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