"Learn how to protect your tax-exempt status while running a nonprofit corporation "
"Its best to comply than to pretend to be unaware"

You'll want to organize these materials in a corporate records book, which should also contain a copy of your articles of incorporation, bylaws, and tax exemption determination letters from the IRS and your state tax agency, if applicable.

In addition to keeping records of important decisions, your nonprofit corporation must record any financial transactions in a double-entry bookkeeping system and keep other financial records in order to file an annual corporate tax return.

Limits on Nonprofit Activities

Nonprofit corporations cannot contribute money to political campaigns. Nonprofit corporations with a 501(c)(3) tax exemption (the most common) are not allowed to participate in political campaigns or contribute money to them. If they do, the IRS can revoke their nonprofit status, and can assess a special excise tax against the organization and its managers.

Nonprofit corporations can engage in only limited lobbying activities. Tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofits that influence legislation to any "substantial degree" face the loss of their nonprofit status. However, for tax-exempt nonprofits that want to participate in lobbying, the IRS simply sets a limit on the money they can spend on political activities.

Nonprofit corporations must not distribute profits to members, officers, or directors. A nonprofit corporation cannot be organized to financially benefit its members, officers, or directors. However, reasonable salaries and expense reimbursements are permitted.

Nonprofit corporations must pay taxes on income from "unrelated activities."Sometimes, a nonprofit organization will earn income through activities that aren't directly related to its nonprofit purpose; for example, the directors of an organization dedicated to preserving open space may collect a consulting fee for advising other nonprofits. The IRS requires nonprofits to pay corporate income taxes on such unrelated income over $1,000, whether or not the group uses that money to fund its tax-exempt activities.

Nonprofit corporations cannot make substantial profits from unrelated activities. If a nonprofit spends too much time on unrelated activities, or if the unrelated activities generate "substantial" income, the group's nonprofit status may be jeopardized. Nonprofit corporations that plan to engage in activities that aren't related to their tax-exempt purpose should consult a lawyer or tax expert with experience in nonprofit law.

When a nonprofit corporation dissolves, its assets must be distributed to another tax-exempt group. Since tax-exempt organizations and their assets cannot be owned, they can never be sold. If the directors of a nonprofit decide to disband the organization, they must donate its assets to another nonprofit group. This also means that once property goes into a nonprofit corporation, it cannot later be distributed to a member or director.


The federal government does not recognize an LLC as a classification for federal tax purposes. An LLC business entity must file as a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship tax return. An LLC that is not automatically classified as a corporation can file Form 8832 to elect their business entity classification. A business with at least 2 members can choose to be classified as an association taxable as a corporation or a partnership, and a business entity with a single member can choose to be classified as either an association taxable as a corporation or disregarded as an entity separate from its owner, a disregarded entity. Form 8832 is also filed to change the LLCs classification.

Do Changes in Our Nonprofit Bylaws Have to Be Reported to the IRS?
Yes, they do. An organization that is exempt from federal income tax, as described in Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3), is required to report changes to its bylaws and other governing documents annually to the IRS on the organization's IRS Form 990.

Substantial changes to a tax-exempt organization's character, purposes, or methods of operation should be reported to the IRS as soon as possible because such changes, if inconsistent with the organization's tax exemption, could affect the organization's tax-exempt status. For minor changes, just report them on your organization's next annual Form 990.

Check with your state of incorporation about its regulations for reporting changes to your bylaws.