As we have explained in previous posts, the Internal Revenue Code permits organizations that otherwise qualify to “self-declare” their tax-exempt status under Code Section 501(c)(4). This created a problem for the IRS as it had no way to know how many 501(c)(4) organizations were operating. Some such groups are formed for political purposes and are created and dissolved before the IRS even knows that they exist. Congress passed new legislation at the end of 2015 that added Section 506 to the Internal Revenue Code. Code Section 506 aims to remedy this problem by requiring organizations to notify the IRS of their intent to operate as a Section 501(c)(4) organization. The IRS has developed a new form for this purpose – Form 8976 – that organizations should use to provide this notification.
Form 8976, Notice of Intent to Operate Under Section 501(c)(4)
The Form 8976 Electronic Notice Registration System allows organizations to complete the notification process online.
- There is a user fee of $50 that must be submitted to Pay.gov within 14 days of submitting Form 8976 to complete the organization’s notification. If the fee is not submitted within 14 days, the notice will be rejected.
- Form 8976 and the corresponding fee may only be completed and submitted electronically. There is no paper form.
- This is a one-time notification. However, organizations claiming to be exempt under Code Section 501(c)(4) will have to file annual information returns or notices (e.g., Form 990, Form 990-EZ, or Form 990-N) depending on total assets and gross receipts.
- In addition to submitting the Form 8976 notice, 501(c)(4) applicants may also choose to file a complete Form 1024. Submission of a Form 1024 does not relieve an organization of the requirement to submit a Form 8976.
Who must submit a notification
This requirement only applies to organizations intending to operate under Section 501(c)(4). Organizations operating under any other 501(c) section should not file this notice.
When must submit the notification be filed
In general, an organization that intends to be described in Section 501(c)(4) must notify the IRS that it is operating as a Section 501(c)(4) organization within 60 days of its formation.
There are certain exceptions to the notification requirement. Organizations that filed a Form 990 (or, if eligible, Form 990-EZ or Form 990-N) or a Form 1024 seeking a determination letter recognizing exemption under Section 501(c)(4) on or before July 8, 2016, are not required to file the notification. For additional information, please refer to Rev. Proc. 2016-41.