How long does it take for 501c3 approval?

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The 501(c)(3) status is a critical designation for nonprofit organizations in the United States. It grants them exemption from federal income tax and allows their donors to claim tax deductions for their contributions. Due to the benefits of this status, the process of obtaining approval from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is rigorous and can be time-consuming. The duration for receiving 501(c)(3) approval can vary significantly based on several factors, such as the completeness of the application, the complexity of the organization’s structure, and the current workload of the IRS.

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Application Process for 501(c)(3) Status

To apply for 501(c)(3) status, an organization must submit Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ to the IRS. Form 1023 is the standard, longer form, while Form 1023-EZ is a streamlined version available for smaller organizations that meet certain criteria.

Initial Steps

  1. Formation of the Nonprofit: Before applying, the organization must be legally established, typically as a corporation, trust, or association.
  2. Adoption of Purpose: The nonprofit must adopt a charitable, educational, religious, or scientific purpose as outlined by the IRS.
  3. Submission of Form 1023 or 1023-EZ: The appropriate form must be completed and submitted along with the required fee.

Average Approval Time

As of the last update before the knowledge cutoff in April 2023, the IRS reported an average processing time for Form 1023 applications of between 3 to 6 months. However, applicants should be prepared for the process to potentially take longer, especially if the application is incomplete or requires additional review.

Form 1023-EZ

For Form 1023-EZ, which is a more straightforward form, the IRS has historically processed these applications more quickly, sometimes within 2 to 4 weeks after submission. This expedited process is due to the form’s simplicity and the organization’s less complex nature that qualifies it to use this form.

Factors Affecting Approval Time

Several factors can affect the duration of the approval process:

  • Accuracy and Completeness: Inaccurate or incomplete applications will likely face delays. The IRS may request additional information, which can extend the processing time.
  • Complexity of the Organization: More complex organizations, such as those with intricate funding structures or activities, may require a longer review period.
  • IRS Workload: The number of applications the IRS is processing and its available resources can greatly influence the time it takes to review and approve applications.
  • Response Time: How quickly an organization responds to IRS requests for additional information also impacts the overall approval time.

After submission, organizations can check the status of their application through the IRS website. If approved, the IRS will issue a Determination Letter confirming the organization’s tax-exempt status.

Obtaining 501(c)(3) status is a critical step for nonprofit organizations in the US. The time it takes to receive approval from the IRS can vary widely. Nonprofits should ensure that their application is complete and accurate to avoid unnecessary delays and should monitor their application status through the IRS’s available channels.


Nonprofits should consider consulting with a tax professional or attorney who specializes in nonprofit law to assist with the application process and to ensure that all legal requirements are met.

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