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Nonprofit Law/One person controlling organization


Perhaps I should rephrase my question.

Will the IRS take issue, or could it, if a 501(c)(3) organizes itself with one member?  I mean member of the nonprofit itself, not its board.

Certainly the IRS would consider the situation of one member the same as they do for organizations that are controlled by one person or one family.  They do grant 501(c)(3) organization status to organizations controlled by one person, but generally those are given private foundation status.  But, there is no regulation that public charity status could not be granted to an organization that is controlled by one person.  The IRS would take issue, but then they would need to consider many other organizational facts and operational facts about your organization. "Although control by ... a small group may not necessarily disqualify [an organization] for exemption, it provides an obvious opportunity for abuse of the claimed tax-exempt status." Church of Ethereal Joy, 83 T.C. 20 at 23 (1984). That case is
cited in the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals case St. David's Health Care System v. U.S., 349 F.3d 232 (2003)

Harvey Mechanic, Attorney at Law -

P.S. This response is intended to be a general statement of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.  

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Harvey Mechanic


I am an attorney and I volunteer time to answer general questions about U.S. Federal income tax issues of nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charities only. Those questions could be about establishing and maintaining legal requirements for such non-profit organizations in the United States, including Internal Revenue service filings and requirements. I will not be working on this free forum to answer questions about Nonprofit's possible unrelated or for-profit businesses or how to fill out forms. This forum is only for general questions about federal tax law, not as the law applies to your specific situation. If you do not make your question public then I will not be spending much of my donated time on answers that would not benefit the public. If you have other questions, please contact me at I will reply from my email. In any case, do not reveal confidential information to me until after I have contracted with you to provide personal legal services. My responses on this forum are intended to be general statements of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice, and do not create an attorney/client relationship. For me to consider your individual situation and how the law applies, I would need to gather extensive information about the situation. To search my previous answers you can do a Google search by "" without the quotes and then add your search terms before hitting enter.


I have been practicing law and especially the law of nonprofit organizations since 1990 when I was admitted to the New York Bar and I have maintained my status with the Bar since that time.


B.S. Columbia University in New York City, 1970

J.D. (Law Degree) Brooklyn Law School, 1990 -- Cum Laude.

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