Lost Your Tax-Exempt Status? Here’s How to Get it Back

Once you’ve gotten that coveted tax-exempt status for your nonprofit organization, it can be quite the job maintaining it. For some, it can even become a full-time job to ensure their organization remains tax-exempt, which is why it can be so devastating to learn that the IRS has revoked that status.

Losing Tax-Exempt Status
The most common reason organizations lose their tax-exempt status is failing to file a Form 990 return for three consecutive years. Of course, there are more insidious ways organizations can forfeit their status, but not filing for three years in a row can be indicative of these. And so organizations will automatically lose tax-exempt status, effective beginning the original due date of the third missed annual return.

When you lose tax-exempt status, the first thing the IRS will do is send a letter explaining the situation and how your organization is no longer exempt from federal income tax. Your organization will be added to the Automatic Revocation of Exemption List, which the IRS updates monthly.

During this time, your organization is no longer considered tax-exempt so normal federal income tax laws apply. Also during this time period, you’re no longer eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions however your donors can deduct contributions made before your organization is listed on the Automatic Revocation list. Keep in mind that there may also be separate repercussions with your state after your tax-exempt status is revoked.

If your organization is still operating while its tax-exempt status is revoked, you may also be required to file a federal income tax return and pay any applicable taxes with one of these forms:

  • -Form 1120, US Corporation Income Tax Return, due the 15th day of the 3rd month following your tax year end date
  • -Form 1041, US Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, due the 15th day of the 4th month following your tax year end date

And Getting it Back!
The most important thing to getting your tax-exempt status back is to act fast and thoroughly when going through the IRS’s reinstatement steps. It will really help here if you’ve been keeping detailed records of your organization’s revenue and expenses. So, first things first: to reinstate your tax-exempt status, you’re going to need to file another Form 1023 if applying under section 501(c)(3). If you’re applying under a different Code section, file Form 1024. Regardless of whether your organization was originally required to file one of these forms for tax-exempt status, you’ll need to file one again now.

You’ll also be required to pay the appropriate user fee the IRS will charge for your status reinstatement. The specifics of the amounts you owe will be explained in the letter the IRS sends to alert you of your status being revoked.

If needed, you can also petition for a retroactive reinstatement as part of your application. This is an important step to take if you believe your organization’s tax-exempt status being revoked was an error or unwarranted. If you don’t need retroactive reinstatement, pending your application’s approval, your organization’s new tax-exempt effective date will most likely be the date you submit Form 1023 or 1024 to the IRS.

Once you’ve been reinstated, it’s important to make every effort not to lose that status again! Be sure to file your 990 Form each year, keep meticulous records, and, of course, only use the benefits of your tax-exempt status for tax-exempt operations. And don’t forget that ExpressTaxExempt can help – like the Jackson 5, just call our name and we’ll be there!

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