Are Public Libraries Considered Nonprofit Organizations?

In general, public libraries do not receive 501(c)(3) exemption status from the IRS; however, tax officials recognize them as a governmental unit under the 501(c)(3) Internal Revenue Code which allows exemption from federal taxes.
For grant applications from foundations or charitable organizations, government entities usually need to provide proof of its tax-exempt or charity status.

Are Public Libraries Considered Nonprofit Organizations?

Tax-Exempt Status for Libraries

A public library can use its federal taxpayer identification number, commonly known as its Employer Identification Number (EIN), to identify itself. The IRS can also distribute a “governmental information letter” upon request which proves the library’s exemption from federal taxes. The letter also explains how the entity is applicable for deductible contributions and income exclusion.

When a new public library gets commissioned by an administration of public education, it is automatically exempt from state taxes and typically doesn’t pay federal taxes because of its governing entity status. In particular circumstances, a library can request to qualify as a 501(c)(3) organization instead of a government entity but has to submit a Form 1023 to receive a determination from the IRS.

While operating as a government entity, libraries can enlist another 501(c)(3) organization to accept funds or donations on its behalf – these nonprofit organizations are typically friends groups, community foundations, or library associations. They use public contributions and grants towards charity, education, the promotion of literature, and related administrative costs. Among other activities, these exempt organizations’ charitable efforts are for improving public libraries, promoting literacy, and awarding scholarships.

Please Read: File Form 990-N, 990-EZ, 990, 990-PF Securely

Tax Deductible Contributions for Public Libraries

Public libraries and their associations are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. The IRS requires a receipt written to donors who contribute over $250. You can give receipts or a “thank you” for lesser amounts if you choose, but the primary reason is for those planning to deduct their donation from their tax bill.

The tax receipt should contain the following information:

  • Name and address of the organization
  • Date the contribution was given
  • The amount of a cash contribution or the description of a non-cash donation
  • A statement of goods or services that are given in return for a contribution, if necessary

If there’s a donor that gives numerous small donations throughout the year, and their total amount is over $250, they will also need a written receipt for tax purposes. 501(c)(3) organizations or associations that are accepting contributions on behalf of a library will need to report individual donations of $5,000 or greater on Schedule B of their Form 990.


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