Real Help With Your 501(c)(3) Application
Miscellaneous Changes: Form 8940
Form 8940, Request for Miscellaneous Determination, (revised in mid-2023 to be a 46 page electronic-only form) provides a means for an organization that is already exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) to ask the IRS to reconsider some aspect of that exempt status, leaving the underlying exemption in place. (Do not try to "amend" Form 1023.) Two common requests are for exemption from the Form 990 filing requirement and requests for reclassification of foundation status.
Exemption from Form 990 Filing Requirement
Form 8940 provides an opportunity for an organization that has been recognized exempt from Federal income tax to claim an exemption from the requirement to file an annual return. Although applicants that use the long-form 501(c)(3) application can use Part I, Question 10 of Form 1023 to claim a filing exemption when submitting Form 1023, errors are sometimes made, applicants may be unaware of filing exemptions that apply to them and, of course, circumstances can change.
The streamlined 501(c)(3) application form, 1023-EZ, does not provide a way for an applicant to claim exemption from annual filing. In fact, the instructions for Form 1023-EZ say than an EZ applicant must use Form 8940 to claim an exemption from the 990 filing requirement.
Basically, in order to receive a favorable determination, the Form 8940 applicant must establish that the organization is one of the types of organizations legally exempt from filing.
Reclassification of Foundation Status
Form 8940 provides an opportunity for an organization that has been recognized exempt under 501(c)(3) to claim a foundation status other than the one originally recognized. An organization may need to make a such a change because its circumstances have changed, or because haste or lack of knowledge resulted in an error in the initial determination.
Since the introduction of Form 1023-EZ, the number of small 501(c)(3) organizations recognized as private foundations, rather than as public charities, has been increasing. I have written the IRS multiple times about this problem. In January of 2024, I finally filed a formal Systemic Advocacy Issue Submission complaint, IRS Form 14411. Click here to view a PDF which combines the information in Form 14411 with a detailed background document I submitted at the same time.
The only way to fix this error is by filing Form 8940. In my opinion, the wording and instructions for Form 1023-EZ itself have caused many of these errors. The following page has additional information on using IRS Form 8940 to get a corrected 501(c)(3) ruling in these circumstances:
Reclassification of Foundation Status Q & A
The types and proportions of support an organization receives can vary from year to year, but the IRS does not require a public charity to file Form 8940 every time its support computation (Schedule A of Form 990) indicates a public charity status other than the one originally recognized by the IRS. Form 8940 is only necessary if the organization specifically needs an IRS determination letter confirming the changed status.
It is important to File Form 8940, however, and obtain a corrected letter, when an initial determination of private foundation status was in error. Private foundation status can affect an organization's filing requirements and ability to apply for grants. Organizations originally determined to be private foundations that have not completed their fifth year of existence, or that can show that they have always been publicly supported will need to file Form 8940 to get the record straight with the IRS.
Organizations that were not publicly supported when they received an IRS ruling of private foundation status, but that are now able to meet a public charity test should not request a "reclassification of foundation status" on Form 8940. These charities must go through a "termination of private foundation status," Form 8940, Part II, line 8.
For 2023, the User Fee for Form 8940 is $550. Since Form 8940 is now an electronic-only form, applicants receive an email acknowledgement when submitting the form and paying the User Fee.
In April of 2023, the IRS replaced the paper Form 8940 dated 2011 with an electronic form. This form is not available on the IRS website. To preview, complete, or submit the electronic Form 8940 you will have to visit pay.gov, the website also used for Form 1023-EZ and the long-form 1023.
Instructions for Form 8940 (also dated April, 2023) are available at pay.gov and at the IRS website.
Note that the IRS requires a separate User Fee for each type of Form 8940 request.