A group exemption letter is a ruling or determination letter issued to a central organization recognizing on a group basis the exemption under section 501(c) of subordinate organizations on whose behalf the central organization has applied for recognition of exemption.
A central organization is an organization that has one or more subordinates under its general supervision or control.
A subordinate organization is a chapter, local, post, or unit of a central organization. A central organization may be a subordinate itself, such as a state organization that has subordinate units and is itself affiliated with a national (central) organization.
A subordinate organization may or may not be incorporated, but it must have an organizing document. A subordinate that is organized and operated in a foreign country may not be included in a group exemption letter. A subordinate described in section 501(c)(3) may not be included in a group exemption letter if it is a private foundation described in section 509(a).
If your organization is a subordinate one controlled by a central organization (for example, a church, the Boy Scouts, or a fraternal organization), you should check with the central organization to see if it has been issued a group exemption letter that covers your organization. If it has, you do not have to file a separate application unless your organization no longer wants to be included in the group exemption letter.
If the group exemption letter does not cover your organization, ask your central organization about being included in the next annual group ruling update that it submits to the IRS.taxmap/pubs/p557-004.htm#TXMP6d78c345
If your organization is a central organization with affiliated subordinates under its control, it may apply for a group exemption letter for its subordinates, provided it has obtained recognition of its own exemption. You should make the application for such subordinates by letter instead of submitting either Form 1023 or 1024. This procedure relieves each of the subordinates covered by a group exemption letter from filing its own application. A central organization obtains its own recognition of exemption by sending its application to the IRS address shown on Form 8718 or Form 1023 for the area in which the central organization's principal place of business or principal office is located.
If the central organization has previously obtained recognition of its own exemption, it must indicate its employer identification number, the date of the letter recognizing its exemption, and the IRS office that issued it. It need not forward documents already submitted. However, if it has not already done so, the central organization must submit a copy of any amendment to its governing instruments or internal regulations as well as any information about changes in its character, purposes, or method of operation. taxmap/pubs/p557-004.htm#TXMP58b7627b
The central organization must have an employer identification number (EIN) before it submits a completed exemption application. Each subordinate must have its own EIN even if it has no employees. The central organization must send with the group exemption application an EIN for each subordinate organization.taxmap/pubs/p557-004.htm#TXMP420a4c14
In addition to the information required to obtain recognition of its own exemption, the central organization must submit information for those subordinates to be included in the group exemption letter. The information should be forwarded in a letter signed by a principal officer of the central organization setting forth or including as attachments the following.
- Information verifying that the subordinates:
- Are affiliated with the central organization,
- Are subject to its general supervision or control,
- Are all eligible to qualify for exemption under the same paragraph of section 501(c), though not necessarily the paragraph under which the central organization is exempt,
- Are not private foundations if the application for a group exemption letter involves section 501(c)(3),
- Are all on the same accounting period as the central organization if they are to be included in group returns, and
- Are organizations that have been formed within the 15-month period preceding the date of submission of the group exemption application if they are claiming section 501(c)(3) status and are subject to the requirements of section 508(a) and wish to be recognized as exempt from their dates of creation (a group exemption letter may be issued covering subordinates, one or more of which have not been organized within the 15-month period preceding the date of submission, if all subordinates are willing to be recognized as exempt only from the date of application).
- A detailed description of the purposes and activities of the subordinates, including the sources of receipts and the nature of expenditures.
- A sample copy of a uniform governing instrument (such as a charter or articles of association) adopted by the subordinates, or, in its absence, copies of representative instruments.
- An affirmation to the effect that, to the best of the officer's knowledge, the purposes and activities of the subordinates are as stated in (2) and (3), above.
- A statement that each subordinate to be included in the group exemption letter has given written authorization to that effect, signed by an authorized officer of the subordinate, to the central organization (see also New 501(c)(3) organizations that want to be included, later in this section).
- A list of subordinates to be included in the group exemption letter to which the IRS has issued an outstanding ruling or determination letter relating to exemption.
- If the application for a group exemption letter involves section 501(c)(3) and is subject to the provisions of the Code requiring that it give timely notice that it is not a private foundation (see Private Foundations in chapter 3), an affirmation to the effect that, to the best of the officer's knowledge and belief, no subordinate to be included in the group exemption letter is a private foundation as defined in section 509(a).
- For each subordinate that is a school claiming exemption under section 501(c)(3), the information required by Revenue Ruling 71-447 and Revenue Procedure 75-50 (these requirements are fully described in chapter 3, under Private Schools; see also Schedule B, Form 1023).
- For any school affiliated with a church, the information to show that the provisions of Revenue Ruling 75-231 have been met.
- A list of the names, mailing addresses, actual addresses if different, and EINs of subordinates to be included in the group exemption letter. A current directory of subordinates may be furnished instead of the list if it includes the required information and if the subordinates not to be included in the group exemption letter are identified.
A new organization, described in section 501(c)(3), that wants to be included in a group exemption letter must submit its authorization (as explained in item number 5 earlier, under Information required for subordinate organizations) to the central organization before the end of the 15th month after it was formed in order to satisfy the requirement of section 508(a). The central organization must also include this subordinate in its next annual submission of information as discussed below under Information Required Annually. taxmap/pubs/p557-004.htm#TXMP5c3c7a02
Continued effectiveness of a group exemption letter is based on the following conditions.
- The continued existence of the central organization.
- The continued qualification of the central organization for exemption under section 501(c).
- The submission by the central organization of the information required annually (described below under Information Required Annually).
- The annual filing of an information return (Form 990, for example) by the central organization if required.
The continued effectiveness of a group exemption letter as to a particular subordinate is based on these four conditions, as well as on the continued conformity by the subordinate to the requirements for inclusion in a group exemption letter, the authorization for inclusion, and the annual filing of any required information return for the subordinate.
To maintain a group exemption letter, the central organization must submit annually, at least 90 days before the close of its annual accounting period, all of the following information.
- Information about all changes in the purposes, character, or method of operation of the subordinates included in the group exemption letter.
- A separate list (that includes the names, mailing addresses, actual addresses if different, and EINs of the affected subordinates) for each of the three following categories.
An annotated directory of subordinates will not be accepted for this purpose. If there were none of the above changes, the central organization must submit a statement to that effect.
- Subordinates that have changed their names or addresses during the year.
- Subordinates no longer to be included in the group exemption letter because they no longer exist or have disaffiliated or withdrawn their authorization to the central organization.
- Subordinates to be added to the group exemption letter because they are newly organized or affiliated or because they have recently authorized the central organization to include them.
- The information required to be submitted by a central organization on behalf of subordinates to be included in the group exemption letter is required for subordinates to be added to the letter. (This information is listed in items 1 through 9, under Information required for subordinate organizations, earlier. However, if the information upon which the group exemption letter was based applies in all material respects to these subordinates, a statement to this effect may be submitted instead of the information required by items 1 through 4 of that list.)
The organization should send this information to:
Internal Revenue Service
Mail Stop 6273
Ogden, UT 84404
Submitting the required information annually does not relieve the central organization or any of its subordinates of the duty to submit any other information that may be required by an EO area manager to determine whether the conditions for continued exemption are being met.
A group exemption letter no longer has effect, for either a particular subordinate or the group as a whole, when:
- The central organization notifies the IRS that it is going out of existence,
- The central organization notifies the IRS, by its annual submission or otherwise, that any of its subordinates will no longer fulfill the conditions for continued effectiveness, explained earlier, or
- The IRS notifies the central organization or the affected subordinate that the group exemption letter will no longer have effect for some or all of the group because the conditions for continued effectiveness of a group exemption letter have not been fulfilled.
When notice is given under any of these three conditions, the IRS will no longer recognize the exempt status of the affected subordinates until they file separate applications on their own behalf or the central organization files complete supporting information for their reinclusion in the group exemption at the time of its annual submission. However, when the notice is given by the IRS and the withdrawal of recognition is based on the failure of the organization to comply with the requirements for recognition of tax-exempt status under the particular subsection of section 501(c), the revocation will ordinarily take effect as of the date of that failure. The notice, however, will be given only after the appeal procedures described earlier in this chapter are completed.