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What do 501(c)(3) Animal Rescue Organizations need to know about Form 990 Filing?

In this article we will cover the following:

An Overview of 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status and IRS Form 990 Filing Requirements for Animal Rescue Organizations.

- Updated April 21, 2023 - 8.00 AM Admin, ExpressTaxExempt

Animal Rescue Organizations are committed to adopting pets. Most of these animal rescue organizations are created and operated by the volunteers.

The IRS provides more tax flexibility to these organizations to encourage more people towards serving and protecting animals.

This article explains how an animal rescue operates, how to get 501(c)(3) status for an animal rescue, what are the 501(c)(3) requirements for an animal rescue and much more essential information.

1. Basic Activities of Animal Rescue Organization

Animal Rescue Organizations are built and operated to prevent any form of cruelty against animals.

Their primary activities include saving and rescuing,

  • Animals, which are strayed, abandoned or harmed
  • Animals from shelters with high-kill rates
  • Animals whose owners can no longer take care of them.

They work towards providing good shelter, food, and medical care for the rescued animals. These organizations work to completely rehabilitate these animals in the aftermath of the abuse or ill-treatment they have faced.

Once these animals are in a better state of health, animal rescues rehome them, i.e., finding them a suitable new owner for adoption.

Many non-profit animal shelters rely on animal rescue organizations when they need additional help caring for and rehoming animals.

2. Is Animal Rescue a tax-exempt organization?

According to the IRS, when an organization operates exclusively for a charitable purpose, it can be considered a non-profit organization and is eligible for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

Therefore, when an animal rescue operates solely for preventing cruelty to the animals, they come under the category of non-profit organizations and are eligible to apply for 501(c)(3) status.

3. What are the mandatory requirements for animal rescue organizations to get 501(c)(3) status?

The IRS has a few other requirements on how the animal rescues should and shouldn’t operate in order to obtain the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. They are,

  • None of the earnings (donations, gifts) of animal rescues may benefit any private shareholder or individual directly.
  • Animal rescues may not try to influence legislation as a significant part of its activities.
  • It may not take part in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.
  • If an animal rescue is involved in an excess benefit transaction with a person having considerable influence over the organization, an excise tax may be imposed on the person and on organization authorities agreeing to the transaction.

4. Why should Animal Rescue Organizations get the 501(c)(3) status?

Obtaining the 501(3)(c) tax-exempt status can be highly beneficial for an animal rescue in many ways. Primarily, when an animal rescue organization gets the 501(c)(3) status, they become exempt from federal tax. They then benefit from:

  • Tax-deductible expenses : All the expenses incurred in rescuing and fostering the animals become tax-deductible.
  • Tax-free contributions : All the donations, contributions, and gifts received by the tax-exempt animal rescues are tax-deductible.
  • Public Legitimacy : Having an IRS-authorized non-profit status can give a greater public recognition to an animal rescue.
  • Apply for Grants : Tax-exempt animal rescues are eligible to apply for grants from various foundations and government agencies.

5. How do you get 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for animal rescues?

The IRS requires all non-profit organizations to be organized as a trust, a corporation, or an association to become tax-exempt.

So, to obtain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, non-profit animal rescue organizations should be incorporated.

These incorporated non-profit animal rescues can apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by filing Form 1023 with the IRS.

Any small non-profit animal rescue that has gross receipts less than $5,000 in each taxable year can use Form 1023-EZ to get the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

6. How to file Form 1023?

Non-profit animal rescues must file these forms electronically.

To submit Form 1023, a non-profit animal rescue organization must:

  • Register for an account on
  • Enter “1023” in the search box and select it.
  • Complete the form.

Visit here to know more about Form 1023,

7. Should 501(c)(3) animal rescue Organizations file Tax Returns?

Yes, all tax-exempt animal rescues should file tax returns to the IRS annually.

To prevent non-profit animal rescues from losing their tax-exempt status, the IRS requires that they report their revenue, expenses, assets, and liabilities every year.

8. What form should a 501(c)(3) animal rescue use to file tax returns?

Tax-exempt 501(c)(3) animal rescues can file their annual tax returns to the IRS using Form 990.

There are different versions of Form 990, categorized based on the size and financial activities of the animal rescues.

Conditions Forms to File
Animal rescues with gross receipts ≤ $50,000 Form 990-N
Animal rescues with gross receipts < $200,000 & total assets < $500,000. Form 990-EZ
Animal rescues with gross receipts ≥ $200,000 or total assets ≥ $500,000 Form 990

9. When is the deadline for 501(c)(3) animal rescue organizations to complete tax filing?

The deadline for a 501(c)(3) animal rescue to file the tax returns varies based on its accounting period.

In general, the deadline to file Form 990 is the 15th day of 5th month after the tax period ends.

  • Calendar tax period - For tax-exempt animal rescues that follow the tax period from January 1 - December 31, the due date to file Form 990 is May 15.
  • Fiscal Tax period - For tax-exempt animal rescues that follow a tax period that ends other than December 31, the due date to file Form 990 is 15th day of the 5th month after the tax period ends.

If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the tax returns can be filed on the next business day.

Visit to learn more about the Form 990 deadlines.

10. Choose ExpressTaxExempt to E-File Form 990 for 501(c)(3) Animal Rescues

Form 990 preparation for your 501(c)(3) animal rescue organization is easier with our direct Form-Entry or Interview Style filing process. With our expert assistance and internal audit checks, you can complete error-free tax filing.

You can invite users to review, approve and manage your returns. You can also track the status of your return easily with our real-time updates.

Our live customer support team is always available to help you through email, phone, or chat during the filing process.

Ready to file your 501(c)(3) Animal Rescue Tax Form 990?