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Topics discussed in the guide:

  • What is a 501(c)(3) church?
  • Examples of IRS considered churches
  • Is a church a tax-exempt organization?
  • Do churches file a 990 Form?

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

- Updated April 19, 2022 - 8.00 AM - Admin, ExpressTaxExempt

The IRS automatically recognizes the churches under section 501(c)(3) as tax-exempt. This type of Organization does not pay income tax on its earnings or on the donations it receives.

This article further explores the requirement for activities of the Churches, applying for tax-exempt status, annual filing requirements, and more.

1. What is a Church?

A church is usually a religious organization that operates to be an important part of the religious group of the public in a particular location. The IRS recognizes all the places of worship like temples and mosques as churches regardless of their faith. The term “church” also includes the associations of churches, conventions of churches, and integrated auxiliaries.

The churches and the organizations associated with the churches are considered
public charities

E-file Nonprofit School Form 990 Now with ExpressTaxExempt.

2. Examples of IRS considered churches

Because of the federal tax purposes, the IRS recognizes the term “church” as the following:

  • Temples, Mosques, Churches, and other places of worship.
  • Religious organizations.
  • Church conventions.
  • Church associations.
  • Auxiliaries of church.
  • All other organizations associated with the churches.

3. Is a church a tax-exempt organization

Church is also a charitable organization that meets the requirements of section 501(c)(3) of the IRS is automatically considered as a tax-exempt organization and is not required to apply for getting tax-exempt status.

If the organization meets the following requirements, the IRS will recognize the organization as tax-exempt status:

  • The primary purpose of the organization should be religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes.
  • The organization must not be involved in political activities, and lobbying must not be considered a vital organization activity.
  • The net income or the organization’s gross receipts must not be earned by the owner or the organization’s shareholders.
  • The organization’s activities should not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.

However, the churches voluntarily apply for tax-exempt status to the IRS because the letter assures contributors that the church is recognized as exempt and qualifies for related tax benefits. Like all the other public charities, the church also depends upon the public’s donations to organize and operate its charitable programs.

So, the churches mostly apply for the tax-exempt status.

4. How To Apply For 501(c)(3) Status

Follow the steps to obtain a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for your organization.

  • Step 1: Initially, the Organization should apply for an EIN by filing Form SS-4.
  • Step 2: After getting the EIN, the organization should file Form 1023 with the filing fee.
  • Step 3: Finally, the IRS will provide the determination letter that says the IRS recognizes your church as a tax-exempt organization.

Click here to know more about applying for the tax-exempt status.

5. What is your affiliation with the church?

If you’re affiliated with a church or associated with the churches, your application to the IRS would need you to describe by what actions your affiliation is demonstrated through the churches. In addition, you need to convey to the IRS how you are financially associated with religious institutions.

Form 990pf mailing address

6. Do churches file a 990 Form?

Although most tax-exempt organizations must file an annual information return (form 990) with the IRS, churches are explicitly excluded from this requirement by IRC section 6033. However, churches are still subject to taxes on any business income that is not substantially related to their exempt purposes. Those with unrelated business gross taxable income of $1,000 or more in a tax year are required to file Form 990-T, Exempt Organizations Business Income Tax Return, for that year.

Form 990 Filing Requirements

Churches can also voluntarily file annual information returns 990-N, 990-EZ, or 990 to the IRS based on their Organization gross receipts.

On the 990 form, the church provides information on the

  • Financial and other activities
  • Salaries of directors, officers, key employees
  • Contributors details
  • Policies of its charitable facilities that it operated during the tax year.

Form 990-T Filing Requirements

Churches involved in income-producing activities must file Form 990-T if they generate gross income from an unrelated business of $1,000 or more for a taxable year.

Make your 990 Form available to Public

  • An exempt organization must make available for public inspection of its 990 annual return.
  • Making the return for public review increases the trust of the Organization's financial activities among contributors and government agencies.
  • Also, it helps donors to find the right Organization for contributing to the needs of the Organization.

Exemption from 990 Filing

  • Based on the IRS regulations, churches (including integrated auxiliaries and conventions or associations of churches) that meet the requirements of 501(c)(3) status are not required to file an annual return or notice with the IRS. Therefore, these organizations are exempt from filing annual returns.
  • Also, they are not subjected to automatic revocation of exemption for
    failure to file.

Other Forms to file

7. Which 990 Form Should Churches File?

With that being said, churches can voluntarily file Form 990-N, Form 990-EZ, or Form 990 long, depending on their gross receipts.

  • Form 990-N:

    TThe organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less can file a Form 990-N (e-Postcard).

  • Form 990-EZ:

    The Organizations whose gross receipts are less than $200,000 and total assets, less than $500,000 at the end of the taxable year are supposed to file Form 990-EZ.

  • Form 990:

    Organizations whose gross receipts are equal to or higher than $200,000 and total assets equal to or greater than $500,000 at the end of the taxable year are supposed to file Form 990.

    Form 990pf mailing address

8. Choose ExpressTaxExempt to file your Form 990 for Churches.

To file form 990 for Churches, get started with ExpressTaxExempt,

  • We are an IRS authorized e-file provider for 990 returns.
  • Supports e-filing of Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, 990-PF, 8868, and 990 amendments.
  • Our system will walk you throughout the process and help you complete your filing without any hassle.

All you have to do is to create a free account and search your EIN simply. From there, you can choose the tax year and continue to add your Form details.

Learn more about ExpressTaxExempt and why you have to choose us for filing
your 990 return.

Ready to E-file Form 990 for your Churches?

E-File Form 990-N (e-Postcard), 990-EZ, 990, 990-PF, 1120-POL, 8868
with our Software