A taxpayer who has donated money to a charity needs the taxpayer identification (taxpayer ID) number from the nonprofit organization to get a tax deduction. Every nonprofit that does not pay taxes is assigned such a number. The taxpayer ID is on the nonprofit’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990. The nonprofit must file IRS Form 990 to report tax-exempt income every year.
Employer Identification Number
The taxpayer ID number is the same as the nonprofit’s employer identification number (EIN). A nonprofit has an EIN even if it does not have employees. The EIN identifies the nonprofit to the IRS. An EIN is a nine-digit number that has the same format as a Social Security number (XXX-XX-XXXX.)
Find a Nonprofit’s EIN
An individual can get a nonprofit’s EIN by contacting the nonprofit to request this information. The EIN may also be stated on the donation receipt that it provided to the individual. In addition, the EIN may be provided on mail from the nonprofit, on the “About Us” page of the nonprofit’s website, and at the bottom of any of the webpages established by the nonprofit. An individual may use the IRS’s online search tools to locate a tax exempt organization, as well as an online directory of nonprofits, such as Guidestar, to locate the nonprofit’s EIN.
Apply for an EIN Number
A nonprofit should apply for an EIN by completing and submitting IRS Form SS-4 or apply online via the IRS website. The nonprofit should do this after the organization has been legally formed or set up as an incorporated nonprofit in their state.
The nonprofit organization is not required to wait for the IRS to declare it to be tax exempt before applying for an EIN. A nonprofit actually needs the EIN first to apply to be a 501(c)(3) organization. The application for an EIN requires the nonprofit’s legal name, mailing address and physical address.
Notes on Applying Online
A nonprofit that is applying for an EIN online may only do so within specific hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST. If a person attempts to apply outside of these times, the website will show a message that the online assistant is not currently available. The first step of the application process is to show that the nonprofit is located in the U.S. or U.S. Territories.
The person applying online is required to have a valid taxpayer identification number, such as a Social Security number (SSN), Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or EIN. The applicant is limited to one EIN per responsible party per day. A responsible party is the person who owns or controls the entity or exercises control over it. Unless the applicant is a government entity, such as a municipal body, the responsible party must be an individual or a natural person. The responsible party cannot be an entity.
The applicant must complete the application in one session. They cannot save and return to the application later. A session expires after 15 minutes of inactivity, and the applicant will have to start over if this occurs. Completing the online application successfully requires understanding the instructions and reviewing them prior to the session. After all the validations for the application are done, the IRS will provide the EIN to the applicant. The applicant should then download, save and print the EIN confirmation notice.
Revocation of Tax-exempt Status
An organization is subject to automatic revocation of tax-exempt status if it does not file an annual information return or notice for three consecutive years. After the responsible party applies for an EIN, the IRS presumes the nonprofit is legally formed, and the clock starts running on the three-year period.
Tax-exempt Number From State
An organization’s state tax-exempt number is different from the organization’s EIN. The state tax-exempt number is assigned by a state agency, such as a state tax board, to identify the organization as exempt from state sales and use taxes. A nonprofit must apply to the state for exemption. Each state’s application process and document requirements are different. For example, Nevada requires that a nonprofit provide a brief description of the primary function of the organization, articles of incorporation, an outline of the organization’s charitable activities, a list of its fundraisers, a statement of its goals and a copy of its business plan.
A person can contact their state revenue department to get information about an organization’s tax exempt status as to state sales and use taxes. For example, the California Franchise Tax Board provides that tax exempt organizations permitted to apply for exemption status include business leagues, charitable organizations, churches, civic leagues, recreation organizations and religious organizations. A business entity such as a for-profit corporation may not apply for exemption status.
Tips for Charitable Contributions
After a taxpayer obtains the nonprofit’s EIN, they typically can make charitable contributions if they itemize deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040) Itemized Deductions. A taxpayer can only make tax deductible contributions to qualified organizations, such as nonprofits. A gift to an individual is not deductible. When a person receives a benefit in exchange for the contribution, such as goods or services, they are allowed to deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received or expected to be received.
The taxpayer should keep a record of their contribution, a bank record or written communication from the organization containing its name, the amount and the date of the contribution. The taxpayer can deduct the fair market value of any property they donate to a qualified organization. For any contribution of $250 or more, the taxpayer should retain a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the nonprofit.
This acknowledgment should provide the amount of the cash and/or a description of any of the property they contributed. The acknowledgment must state whether the nonprofit provided any goods or services in exchange. If yes, the nonprofit must provide a description and a good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services. There are special rules regarding the donation of certain types of property, such as automobiles and inventory. The taxpayer can learn more by consulting IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property.
- IRS.gov: Tax Exempt Organization Search
- IRS.gov: Employer Identification Number
- IRS.gov: Form 990 Resources and Tools
- California Franchise Tax Board: Introduction to Tax-Exempt Status
- IRS.gov: Form SS-4
- Guidestar: Homepage
- IRS.gov: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) Online
- IRS.gov: Topic No. 506, Charitable Contributions
- IRS.gov: Publication 561 (02/2020), Determining the Value of Donated Property
- Nevada Department of Taxation: Application for Sales/Use Tax Exemption for Religious/Charitable/Educational Organizations
- IRS.gov: About Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions
- If you are still unable to obtain the charity's EIN after following the above steps, contact your state's attorney general for help. The state attorney general's office has primary responsibility for overseeing charities and keeping charities' financial reports.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.