Comparing 501(c)(3) vs. 501(c)(6) for Nonprofit Startups

A nonprofit arrangement organized and operated for charitable purposes may be nontaxable under section 501 ( hundred ) ( 3 ) of the Internal Revenue Code while a nonprofit organized and operated to promote the common business interest of its members and not to engage in even commercial enterprise activities normally carried on for profit may be excuse under part 501 ( carbon ) ( 6 ) of the Code .
While 501 ( coulomb ) ( 3 ) organizations and 501 ( hundred ) ( 6 ) organizations appear to have wholly different purposes, there are many organizations that operate to advance both types of purposes. For example, a checkup association might look to promote public health policy and provide educational materials and programs for its members and the general public. At the same time, it might provide commercial enterprise tips and master of ceremonies network events chiefly for the benefit of its members. If these were the aforethought activities of a inauguration, what would be the appropriate tax-exemption classification for this association ?
This determination is specific to each administration, but there are several key considerations. The first consideration is whether the organization is contemplated to primarily benefit its members who share a park business interest or a broader segment of the general public. If the early, a 501 ( degree centigrade ) ( 6 ) organization would be the allow choice between the two. If there is uncertainty about this exit, early considerations flow out of the come :


Both 501 ( carbon ) ( 3 ) and 501 ( deoxycytidine monophosphate ) ( 6 ) organizations are tax-exempt from federal income taxes on the income raised or earned related to their exempt purposes. generally, a startup nonprofit organization ( other than a church ) must apply for exemption under 501 ( cytosine ) ( 3 ) by filing Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ with the IRS. In contrast, a nonprofit organization may either ( 1 ) use for courtly IRS recognition of exemption under 501 ( coulomb ) ( 6 ) by filing Form 1024 or ( 2 ) self-declare itself as excuse under 501 ( c ) ( 6 ).


The nontaxable purposes under 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) are : religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public guard, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or external amateur sports rival ( but merely if no character of its activities involve the planning of athletic facilities or equipment ), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. We ’ ve previously written on what constitutes “ charitable ” under 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) here ( starting a nonprofit ), here ( environmental ), here ( economic development ), and here ( arts ). Regarding the operational examination that every 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) organization must pass, the regulations provide :

An organization will be regarded as operated entirely for one or more exempt purposes only if it engages chiefly in activities which accomplish one or more of such exempt purposes specified in section 501 ( vitamin c ) ( 3 ). An organization will not be so see if more than an insubstantial separate of its activities is not in forwarding of an exempt purpose .

The excuse purpose for the 501 ( cytosine ) ( 6 ) is to promote the common clientele of its members. The regulations provide :

A [ 501 ( deoxycytidine monophosphate ) ( 6 ) ] business league is an association of persons having some coarse clientele interest, the purpose of which is to promote such common interest and not to engage in a regular commercial enterprise of a kind normally carried on for net income. It is an arrangement of the lapp cosmopolitan class as a chamber of commerce or control panel of trade. Thus, its activities should be directed to the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business as distinguished from the performance of particular services for individual persons .

It ’ second crucial to note that a 501 ( cytosine ) ( 3 ) organization is expressly prohibited from engaging in more than an insubstantial sum of activities not in forwarding of its nontaxable purpose. On the other hand, a 501 ( coke ) ( 6 ) arrangement may engage in more than an insubstantial amount of activities not in forwarding of its excuse purpose so hanker as it is primarily engaged in activities that far its exempt purpose .

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Fundraising and the Deductibility of Contributions/Dues

Most 501 ( degree centigrade ) ( 3 ) organizations are eligible to receive deductible charitable contributions. however, the actual planning of the Code that provides for the deductibility of contributions is found in section 170 ( coulomb ), which includes :
( 2 ) A pot, trust, or community chest, investment company, or foundation—
( A ) created or organized in the United States or in any possession thence, or under the law of the United States, any State, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United States ;
( B ) organized and operated entirely for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition ( but alone if no contribution of its activities involve the provision of acrobatic facilities or equipment ), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals ;
( C ) no character of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private stockholder or individual ; and
( D ) which is not disqualified for tax exemption under section 501 ( cytosine ) ( 3 ) by reason of attempting to influence legislation, and which does not participate in, or intervene in ( including the publication or distribute of statements ), any political crusade on behalf of ( or in resistance to ) any campaigner for public office.

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The principal differences between section 170 ( coulomb ) ( 2 ) and 501 ( hundred ) ( 3 ) is the prerequisite in the erstwhile that the entity be created or organized in the United States and the absence in the early of a “ testing for public safety ” purpose. accordingly, a taxpayer could not take a charitable contribution subtraction for a give to a foreign 501 ( vitamin c ) ( 3 ) administration or a domestic 501 ( coulomb ) ( 3 ) organization whose exempt determination is testing for public base hit .
It ’ mho besides significant to note that a contribution to a 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) organization besides described in 170 ( degree centigrade ) ( 2 ) will not be deductible if earmarked for lobby .
Payments of dues to 501 ( cytosine ) ( 6 ) organizations may be deductible to a member as an ordinary and necessity clientele expense in the behavior of the penis ’ s commercial enterprise. however, contributions to 501 ( coke ) ( 6 ) organizations are not deductible as charitable contributions. furthermore, a 501 ( c ) ( 6 ) organization must disclose, in any fund-raise solicitation, that contributions to the organization are not deductible for federal income tax purposes as charitable contributions. The disclosure must be expressed in a conspicuous and easily recognizable format .


501 ( coke ) ( 3 ) public charities may engage in lobbying so hanker as such activities are insubstantial in relation to their overall activities. Despite such restriction, public charities may engage in generous levels of lobbying without it being considered hearty if they make the 501 ( h ) election. 501 ( vitamin c ) ( 3 ) private foundations are broadly not permitted to engage in lobbying but may fund grantees with general back that the grantees decide to use for lobby. 501 ( c ) ( 3 ) organizations often discount their ability to engage in substantial permissible advocacy-related activities, including issue advocacy, get-out-the-vote drives, and voter registration. We believe advocacy is frequently a critical tool that boards must consider as a potential way to most efficaciously and efficiently advance their organization ’ mho mission .
501 ( vitamin c ) ( 6 ) organizations may engage in unlimited lobby in promotion of their exempt purposes. See lobby Activities – Business Leagues. however, a 501 ( coke ) ( 6 ) administration that engages in lobby ( and certain political activities ) may be required to either :

  1. notify its members about the percentage of dues that are used for lobbying (and certain political activities) that are consequently nondeductible; or
  2. pay a proxy tax.
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Lobbying for the lobby tax purposes described above is defined differently from lobbying for 501 ( heat content ) -electing public charities. For case, for anteroom tax purposes, lobbying expenditures do not include expenditures for influencing local legislation and do include expenditures for any direct communication with a cover executive branch official in an attack to influence the official actions or positions of such official .
Both 501 ( deoxycytidine monophosphate ) ( 3 ) and 501 ( speed of light ) ( 6 ) organizations must besides comply with non-tax-related laws governing lobby and political activities. These may include complying with registration and periodic report requirements.

Political Campaign Intervention

501 ( degree centigrade ) ( 3 ) organizations are prohibited from engaging in any political political campaign intervention activities .
501 ( deoxycytidine monophosphate ) ( 6 ) organizations may engage in political campaign intervention activities therefore long as such activities do not represent their primary activity. Interpreting the limitation with a high risk allowance, some 501 ( degree centigrade ) ( 6 ) organizations spend 49 % of their resources on electioneering .

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