This section describes the information to be provided upon application for recognition of exemption by two types of fraternal societies: beneficiary and domestic. The major distinction is that fraternal beneficiary societies provide for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to their members or their dependents, while domestic fraternal societies do not provide these benefits but rather devote their earnings to fraternal, religious, charitable, etc., purposes. The procedures to follow in applying for recognition of exemption are described in chapter 1.
If your organization is controlled by a central organization, you should check with your controlling organization to determine whether your unit has been included in a group exemption letter or may be added. If so, your organization need not apply for individual recognition of exemption. For more information see Group Exemption Letter in chapter 1 of this publication. taxmap/pubs/p557-028.htm#TXMP178b6c58
Donations by an individual to a domestic fraternal beneficiary society or a domestic fraternal society operating under the lodge system are deductible as charitable contributions only if used exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. taxmap/pubs/p557-028.htm#TXMP5ea7d9e0
A fraternal beneficiary society, order, or association should file an application for recognition of exemption from federal income tax on Form 1024. The application and accompanying statements should establish that the organization:
- Is a fraternal organization,
- Operates under the lodge system or for the exclusive benefit of the members of a fraternal organization itself operating under the lodge system, and
- Provides for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to the members of the society, order, or association or their dependents.
Operating under the lodge system means carrying on activities under a form of organization that comprises local branches, chartered by a parent organization and largely self-governing, called lodges, chapters, or the like. taxmap/pubs/p557-028.htm#TXMP033bf664
It is not essential that every member be covered by the society's program of sick, accident, or death benefits. An organization can qualify for exemption if most of its members are eligible for benefits, and the benefits are paid from contributions or dues paid by those members.
The benefits must be limited to members and their dependents. If members will have the ability to confer benefits to other than themselves and their dependents, exemption will not be recognized. taxmap/pubs/p557-028.htm#TXMP66727138
Whole-life insurance constitutes a life benefit under section 501(c)(8) even though the policy may contain investment features such as a cash surrender value or a policy loan. taxmap/pubs/p557-028.htm#TXMP34126fef
Payments by a fraternal beneficiary society into a state-sponsored reinsurance pool that protects participating insurers against excessive losses on major medical health and accident insurance will not preclude exemption as a fraternal beneficiary society. taxmap/pubs/p557-028.htm#TXMP04a2b028
A domestic fraternal society, order, or association may file an application for recognition of exemption from federal income tax on Form 1024. The application and accompanying statements should establish that the organization:
- Is a domestic fraternal organization,
- Operates under the lodge system,
- Devotes its net earnings exclusively to religious, charitable, scientific, literary, educational, and fraternal purposes, and
- Does not provide for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to its members.
The organization may arrange with insurance companies to provide optional insurance to its members without jeopardizing its exempt status.