Non Profit Requirements by the IRS

By Daniel Thompson
The IRS determines exemption status based on how a non-profit organization obtains money.
The American money image by Viacheslav Anyakin from

The IRS has specific requirements an organization must meet to qualify as a non-profit. Knowing and meeting IRS requirements is important for any organization wishing to avoid unnecessary taxation and penalties. The IRS bases requirements for non-profits on the nature of the organization, and how it obtains and uses revenue.


The IRS requires that organizations meet its guidelines for tax-exempt purposes. The IRS includes a variety of activities under the definition of tax-exempt purposes including the advancement of scientific, educational, literary and religious activity. Organizations that foster national and international amateur sports and charitable organizations are also tax-exempt under these rules. The IRS defines charitable organizations by their legal definition. This includes activities such as providing relief for the poor, preventing the abuse of animals or children, and eliminating discrimination.


The Internal Revenue Service strictly regulates lobbying by tax-exempt, non-profit organizations. The agency prohibits most such organizations from directly trying to influence legislative efforts. Contacting members or employees of a legislative body, or encouraging the public to do so, is lobbying according to the IRS.

It also strictly prohibits non-profit organizations from participating in political campaigns. However, they may provide information about legislation and campaigns to the public in an educational format.


Non-profits must meet certain organizational requirements to qualify for a tax exemption. According to the IRS, corporations, associations, foundations, funds and community chests are acceptable types of non-profit organizations. A non-profit must create and adhere to organizational documents limiting its scope of activities to tax-exempt purposes defined by the IRS.