Form 1023-EZ and the Streamlined Process for the Federal Income Tax Exemption: Is the IRS Slashing Red Tape or Opening Pandora’s Box?

On July 1, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Form 1023‐EZ, a streamlined version of the application required of all organizations seeking federal tax‐exempt status under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. By stripping away familiar elements like the narrative of specific activities, financial projections, and provision of organizing documents, Form 1023‐EZ requires dramatically less time to complete and represents a radical change to a decades‐old process. It is expected that approximately seventy percent of the 80,000 organizations annually applying for tax‐exempt status will be eligible to use Form 1023‐EZ. The IRS expects that Form 1023‐EZ will more efficiently provide determinations to applicants, preserve accuracy, and enable the IRS to focus on back‐end compliance. Yet several commentators, including, perhaps counterintuitively, representatives of large consortiums of nonprofits, have decried Form 1023‐EZ as an IRS misstep. This piece explores why this tension exists and provides evidence that concerns over the 1023‐EZ are largely misplaced.

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