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Check Your 501(c)(3) Status The Right Way

How to Check Your 501(c)(3) Status: Dos and Don’ts

As your board completes all the requirements for becoming a 501(c)(3), no doubt you’re eager to get started doing good work for your community. Take caution though, until you have your tax-exempt determination letter in hand, some of the work you plan to do will just have to wait. Once you’ve sent your 501(c)(3) application off in the mail, you might be wondering how to check nonprofit status. Try not to let your excitement get the best of you. Applying for a 501(c)(3) is a government process that takes time. You have to allow it the proper time to run its course.

If this is all new territory for your board, we’ve got all the details on the do’s and don’ts for a 501(c) status check and some tips for getting organized until everything is official.

The Do’s: How to Check Your 501(c)(3) Status

While it pays to be patient when waiting for your 501(c)(3) determination letter, be aware that things can and do go wrong on occasion. It’s something you want to stay on top of so you can start using your tax-exempt status at the earliest opportunity. Be sure to keep copies of everything you send to the IRS.

With that in mind, here are five ways for how to check the status of your 501(c)(3) application:

  1. Arrange for delivery confirmation. You have a few options for doing this. Send your application via USPS certified mail, set up delivery confirmation, or use a commercial carrier that offers delivery confirmation. Record the date you sent the letter on your calendar, so you’ll know when enough time has passed before doing an IRS 501(c)(3) application status check. The benefit to getting written confirmation of delivery is that you’ll know exactly when the IRS received your application.
  2. Watch for a letter confirming receipt of your application. You should receive a letter around 21 days after you’ve sent your letter that will affirm the IRS has received your application. If you designated a power of attorney on your application, the IRS will mail a copy of the letter to the power of attorney and to your organization.
  1. Check the IRS website for processing updates. The IRS regularly posts general updates about their progress on processing 501(c)(3) applications. The site will tell you the date they will forward your application to an Exempt Organizations Specialist according to the type of 501(c)(3) application that was submitted and the date it was postmarked. Don’t be alarmed if there is a long delay before your application gets assigned to a specialist. The IRS receives many applications every day. The site will also post a comment if they’re running behind on processing applications.
  2. Follow up to ensure the IRS received your application. If you don’t get your letter stating the IRS received your letter and the website indicates it’s past the date it should have been sent to a specialist, it’s appropriate to do an IRS 501(c)(3) application status check. You can do that by phone, fax, or mail. Don’t bother with an email, they won’t respond to you.

Be sure to include the following information:

  • The name of your organization.
  • The organization’s employer identification number (EIN).
  • Your application number.
  • The date you submitted your application.
  • Your title within the organization (must be an officer or director that’s legally authorized to represent the organization or someone who has an official Power of Attorney form on file with the IRS).

If asked, you may need to provide a valid Form 2848 for Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative or Form 8821 for Tax Information Authorization.

You may also call them toll-free at 877-829-5500 or send a fax to 855-224-3311. Use this address if you’re sending your request via postal mail:

Internal Revenue Service
EO Determinations
Attn: Manager, EO Correspondence
P.O. Box 2508
Room 6-403
Cincinnati, OH 45202

The express and overnight delivery address is:

Internal Revenue Service
Room 6-403
550 Main Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Attn: Manager, EO Correspondence

  1. Respond promptly to all IRS communications. If the specialist determines that he or she needs more information, you will receive a letter in the mail outlining what they need. Typically, they’ll give you a specific window of when you need to respond before they reject your application. The sooner you can clear things up, the sooner you will be approved.

The Don’ts: What Not to Do in Checking Your 501(c)(3) Status

While we’ve offered some good suggestions for how to track the progress of your 501(c)(3) application, there are a few things you shouldn’t do to check your 501(c)(3) status application. Be aware that the IRS processes applications in the order they were received.

There are only a few don’ts for how to check on your 501(c)(3) application status:

  • Don’t phone, email, write, or fax a request for status before the IRS has posted the dates for sending applications to their specialists.
  • Don’t contact the IRS without having a copy of your application and other pertinent information in front of you so you don’t waste their time.
  • Don’t ask for an expedited application process unless you’re sure you meet the qualifications for it.

To that last point, the IRS does have an expedited process if you have a compelling reason to push your application to the front of the line. This option isn’t available for organizations that used Form 1023-EZ.

These are the types of reasons the IRS considers to be compelling reasons:

  • Your organization is pending a grant that would be declined without the 501(c)(3) approval, and a failure to receive the grant would prevent your nonprofit from operating.
  • Your organization is new, and it provides disaster relief to victims of emergencies.
  • The IRS made errors that have caused unusual delays in sending you a determination letter.

In the case of a pending grant, provide all the details of the grant to the IRS including the name of the grantor, amount of the grant, date of potential forfeiture, impact on your operations if the grant’s decline, and a signature of a principal officer or authorized representative.

Send your request and the supporting documentation to:

Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 2508
Room 6403
Cincinnati, OH 45201

If you use express mail or a delivery service with a written request for expedited processing, send it to:

Internal Revenue Service
550 Main Street
Room 6403
Cincinnati, OH 45202

Alternatively, you may fax your request to (855) 204-6184.

That wraps things up for how to check your 501(c)(3) status. While you’re waiting for your determination letter, you can make good use of your time by organizing all your board activities. With a BoardEffect board management system, you can set up your board calendar, create board books online, share files, and collaborate. By the time your determination letter arrives, you’ll have everything in order, and you can get off the ground running.

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