Taking a quote from an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) Commissioner: “Tax exempt organizations provide tremendous benefits to the people and the communities they serve, but the ability to do good work hinges upon the public’s trust.” As such, tax-exempt organizations have a broad-based fiduciary responsibility to the public. The organization’s officers, directors, trustees and employees have initial and ongoing responsibilities to ensure that tax-exempt status is maintained and that the organization meets its ongoing compliance responsibilities.
A tax-exempt organization that does not restrict its participation in certain activities and does not absolutely refrain from others, risks failing the operational requirements for exemption from income tax and jeopardizing its tax-exempt status. To assist organizations, from start-up to mature organizations, in meeting their fiduciary responsibilities and in maintaining their tax-exempt status, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) instituted an educational website specifically for exempt organizations, www.stayexempt.irs.gov.
Interested in starting a tax-exempt organization?
Through their website, the IRS provides tools to answer questions and to provide assistance in getting an organization moving in the right direction. Currently, the Starting Out tab provides five videos, including one on Applying for Section 501(c) Status and one on the Life Cycle of an Exempt Organization. The website is constantly evolving.
What are the benefits of the website to existing organizations?
Through the Existing Organizations tab, the IRS’ online training provides organizations with tools and knowledge necessary to keep the organization’s exempt status intact. This tab includes more than 16 videos on topics such as Maintaining 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status, Form 990 Overview Course, Unrelated Business Income, Fundraising Guidelines for Charities, to name a few.
To the extent that officers, directors, trustees and/or employees of tax-exempt organizations need additional free guidance, the In-depth Topics and the Resource Library tabs can be referred to for information on multiple additional topics including, but not limited to, car donations and international activities. Compliance with the guidance provided within the IRS’ website should go a long way toward an organization gaining public trust and positioning it to do good work for the people and communities it serves.