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Everything You Need to Know About Using The IRS 501c3 Search

Dan

Whether you are looking to research tax-exempt organizations in general, or are wondering how to look up specific details about your organization’s filings on the IRS website, the IRS 501c3 search is an excellent IRS nonprofit lookup tool.

Not only can you see past nonprofit tax filings, you can get information about an organization’s ability to receive tax-deductible contributions, data regarding nonprofit tax form 990 and more. 

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What Is The IRS 501c3 Search?

The Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool, or TEOS, allows users to find certain information about charitable organizations and private foundations. The search is most commonly used to determine whether an organization can accept tax-deductible charitable contributions and to easily find data related to filings and the tax-exempt status of various social welfare organizations.

Perhaps you are thinking about starting your own nonprofit and are wondering what a list of expenses for a nonprofit looks like. Well, having access to an example of another organization’s nonprofit tax returns can be extremely useful in the early stages of nonprofit setup. In addition, similar to how individuals may look for more information around how to note their nonprofit tax deductions properly on individual returns, as you look to file your organization’s tax filings for the first (or second, or third) time, reviewing real-world examples can be extremely beneficial!

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How Does The IRS 501c3 Search Work?

The IRS Exempt Organization Search (EOS) queries a number of databases to pull relevant details and forms. Note that the tool can search by several different criteria, which allows the user to more easily find the data they are looking for.

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Select Database

Choose from any of the following options in the database field to bring back links to related documents:

  • Search All: Search All is the most inclusive option that will bring back all available documents for the nonprofit from all of the following IRS databases.

  • Publication 78 Data: A list of charities and other nonprofits organizations, listed under their official (not "doing business as," or DBA) name eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. 

Pro Tip: Not all churches will be listed in the Publication 78 Data. If you cannot find the church you are looking for, see Other Eligible Donees for more information.

  • Auto-Revocation List: U.S. law requires an automatic revocation of tax-exempt status in the event an organization does not file the required Form 990 document for 3 consecutive years. The automatic revocation date is an entity’s effective date of automatic revocation (the due date of the third and final year’s form 990).

Pro Tip: Did your organization have its tax-exempt status revoked? To avoid having to pay income tax on the revenue generated by your organization’s activities, consider lobbying the IRS for reinstatement. The requirements laid out in the "retroactive reinstatement" procedure may allow for reinstatement. If you do not meet the stated criteria, the good news is that you can get your tax exempt status reinstated. Wondering how to keep your organization in the IRS’s good graces? In addition to detailing exemption requirements, the IRS offers a number of StayExempt educational resources that may be helpful. 

  • Determination Letter: A determination letter that recognizes an organization’s tax-exempt status for its programs post tax-exempt application.

Pro Tip: Note that the IRS TEOS only returns determination letters dated on or after January 1, 2014.

  • Form 990-N (e-Postcard): A free-to-file annual electronic notice that many tax-exempt entities (those with gross receipts - or amounts received from all sources during the organization’s annual accounting period without subtracting any expenses - of $50,000 or less) can file instead of the longer Form 990 and Form 990-EZ.  

Pro Tip: If you are wondering about whether your nonprofit is eligible for the Form 990-N, consult the IRS’s list of Organizations Not Permitted to File.

  • Copies of Returns (990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, 990-T): Tax-exempt organizations, section 527 political organizations, and nonexempt charitable trusts must file Form 990.The majority of the 990 series of forms (other than the 990-N postcard) required for many types of nonprofits as they complete their annual tax filings are stored in this IRS database.

Search By

The IRS search form needs some guidance with respect to which of the millions of organizations you are looking to pull information on. Help narrow the list by filling in at least one of the following fields:

  • Organization Name: The name of the organization you are looking to pull information for.

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): The unique nine-digit nonprofit tax ID assigned to U.S. employers.

Search Term

This field will vary depending upon what "Search By" selection you choose. For example, if you chose "Organization Name" above, you would include the name of the particular organization in the "Search Term" field.

City, State, And Country

These three fields are pretty self explanatory. However, note that if you are not sure what city, state, or country would be linked to your nonprofit (many nonprofits have a broad national or international presence afterall), feel free to leave these fields blank. 

Pro Tip: If you are looking for all exempt organizations for a certain state or region, the Exempt Organizations Business Master File Extract (EO BMF) may be an even better option. Organizations headquartered in a certain state will show up on the lists, which are sorted by EIN. Available regions include the northeast, mid-atlantic/ great lakes, gulf coast/ pacific coast, all other areas, international and Puerto Rico.

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What Is The Tax Exempt Organization Search Bulk Data Downloads Tool?

The IRS site also offers a Tax Exempt Organization Search Bulk Data Downloads tool. In the event individuals or organizations want to download data sets of information about organizations' tax-exempt status and filings, this is the appropriate tool for the job. 

The majority of the databases mentioned in the "How Does The IRS 501c3 Search Work?" section above, i.e., Publication 78 Data, Auto-Revocation List, Form 990-N (e-Postcard), and Copies of Returns (990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, 990-T), are available through the tool and are updated on a monthly basis. So, if you have a need to see for a complete list of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions or a public charity that had its tax-exempt status revoked, the bulk data download tool can get you what you need.

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Sadie is thinking about all the things she could use the 501c3 search for!

To download a dataset, follow the following steps:

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Final Thoughts

Whether you are looking for IRS details and historical forms for your organization or lists of organizations that are included in various IRS databases, the IRS 501c3 search is by far the most comprehensive tool for the job.

Pro Tip: Note that the IRS indicates that it is still processing paper-filed 990 series forms that were filed in, or after, April 2020 so searches may not pull 990 forms submitted post-April 2020 until the IRS is caught up on processing these items.

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FAQ

đź’ˇWhat is the IRS 501c3 search?

The Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool, or TEOS, allows users to find certain information about charitable organizations and private foundations. The search is most commonly used to determine whether an organization can accept tax-deductible charitable contributions and to easily find data related to filings and the tax-exempt status of various social welfare organizations. Find out more. 

🔑 How does the IRS 501c3 search work?

The IRS Exempt Organization Search (EOS) queries a number of databases to pull relevant details and forms. Note that the tool can search by several different criteria, which allows the user to more easily find the data they are looking for. Find out more. 

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