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My organization is not a traditional “church,” can I still qualify to operate as a nonprofit under Section 508(c)(1)(A)?

The term church is found, but not specifically defined, in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). However, the use of the term church also includes conventions and associations of churches as well as integrated auxiliaries of a church. According to the IRS, they use term church in its generic sense as a place of worship. Therefore, when The 508 Company refers to churches, we are also referring to home fellowships, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship.

In analyzing whether a religious organization may properly be characterized as a church for purposes of Section 508(c)(1)(A), the IRS considers whether the organization has at least some of the following characteristics. These attributes of a church have been developed by the IRS and by court decisions. They include:

  1. a distinct legal existence,
  2. a recognized creed and form of worship,
  3. a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government,
  4. a formal code of doctrine and discipline,
  5. a distinct religious history,
  6. a membership not associated with any other church or denomination,
  7. an organization of ordained ministers,
  8. ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies,
  9. a literature of its own,
  10. established places of worship,
  11. regular congregations,
  12. regular religious services,
  13. schools for religious instruction of the young,
  14. schools for the preparation of its ministers, and
  15. any other facts and circumstances that may bear upon the organization’s claim for church status.

The IRS makes no attempt to evaluate the content of whatever doctrine a particular organization claims is religious, provided the particular beliefs of the organization are truly and sincerely held by those professing them and the practices and rites associated with the organization’s belief or creed are not illegal or contrary to clearly defined public policy.

The 508 Company will work with you during the formation process to ensure your religious organization possesses multiple of the above characteristics, thereby assuring your organization qualifies for operation under Section 508.

Integrated Auxiliary

The term integrated auxiliary of a church refers to a class of organizations that are related to a church or convention or association of churches, but are not such organizations themselves. In general, the IRS will treat an organization that meets the following three requirements as an integrated auxiliary of a church. The organization must:

  • Be described both as an Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) organization and be a public charity under Code section 509(a)(1), (2), or (3),
  • Be affiliated with a church or convention or association of churches, and
  • Receive financial support primarily from internal church sources as opposed to public or governmental sources.

Men’s and women’s organizations, seminaries, mission societies, and youth groups, etc that satisfy the first two requirements above are considered integrated auxiliaries whether or not they meet the internal support requirement.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – Constitution of United States of America 1789, Amendment 1

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“The I.R.S. examined 1.4 million individual income tax returns in 2010, about 1 percent of the total number filed. In 2018, the latest year with available data when Republicans started making these claims, audits decreased to 370,000, or about 0.2 percent… The budget office estimated increasing I.R.S. funding would return enforcement to its 2010 levels. Doing so would result in about 1.2 million more audits; of those, 583,000 would target people making less than $75,000.”

The New York Times, “Fact-Checking the Misleading Claim About 87,000 Tax Agents”, November 6, 2022

“…For example, you educate believers on national issues that are central to their belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Specifically, you educate Christians on what the bible says in areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations. The bible teachings are typically affiliated with the Republican party and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under IRC Section 501(c)(3).”

Stephen A. Martin, IRS Director, Exempt Organizations, Rulings and Agreements

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