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Nonprofit Law/Religious order incorporation


I am trying to find information about how to incorporate a protestant religious order. The guidelines for a religious order is different than other 501C-3 organizations and it is almost impossible to find information about them. Can you recommend a source for instruction? I have talked to a couple of my friends who are lawyers and they do not even know the answer without research.

I don't know why you concluded that "The guidelines for a religious order is different than other 501C-3 organizations".  There a many 501(c)(3) organizations that are religious in nature. For example, in its Internal Revenue Manual, in notes to 501(c)(3):

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The term "church" includes a religious order or a religious organization if the order or organization is an integral part of a church and is engaged in carrying out the functions of a church whether as a civil law corporation or otherwise. In determining if a religious order or organization is an integral part of a church, consider the degree to which it is connected with and controlled by. A religious order or organization carries out the functions of a church if its principal activity is religious in nature, such as the ministration of sacerdotal functions or the conduct of religious worship. If the organization claims to be or appears to be a church, it is subject to the requirements of IRC 7611. Refer to IRM 4.76.7, Church Tax Inquiries and Examinations IRC 7611, for a discussion for a congressional intent and the requirements of IRC 7611.

IRC 501(c)(3) provides for the exemption of organizations organized and operated exclusively for "religious" purposes. Because activities often serve more than one purpose, an organization that is "advancing religion" within the meaning of Treasury Regulations 1.501(c)(3)-1(d)(2) may also qualify under IRC 501(c)(3) as charitable or educational organization.

Any religious organization must satisfy the statutory requirements to be exempt under IRC 501(c)(3).
---End of Excerpt---

Now, there is a certain type of religious order that could incorporate under IRC 501(d), but they have strict requirements. The total code section is:
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The following organizations are referred to in subsection (a): Religious or apostolic associations or corporations, if such associations or corporations have a common treasury or community treasury, even if such associations or corporations engage in business for the common benefit of the members, but only if the members thereof include (at the time of filing their returns) in their gross income their entire pro rata shares, whether distributed or not, of the taxable income of the association or corporation for such year. Any amount so included in the gross income of a member shall be treated as a dividend received.
---End of Excerpt---

If you think that your proposed organization would qualify as a 501(d), let me know and I would give you some more information.

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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