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Nonprofit Law/Church Organization

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Question
According to the IRS tax guide for churches, a church must have a distinct legal existence.  I am not sure what this means.  Must it be incorporated?  Also, for the state of PA does it need to be incorporated?

Also, must the pastor be an ordained minister?

Thank You

Answer
The IRS Exempt Organization's section (EO) shows what the distinct legal existence is. Individuals or others establishing a 501(c)(3) organization receive exemption only if they formed one of three types of
entities, "8 ORG Organization Code - This code indicates whether the organization is a trust, a  corporation, or an unincorporated association.
http://goo.gl/ybFwn3

No state requires incorporation, but accepts all three types of entities.

The pastor may not be an ordained minister, but that is one of the many factors that the IRS looks at in deciding if it will grant "church" status to a nonprofit organization.  See "Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations" at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf on page 27
--start of excerpt  ---
Certain characteristics are generally attributed to churches. These attributes of a church have been developed by the IRS and by court decisions.  They include: distinct legal existence; recognized creed and form of worship; definite and distinct ecclesiastical government; formal code of doctrine and discipline; distinct religious history; membership not associated with any other church or denomination; organization of ordained ministers; ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of
study; literature of its own; established places of worship; regular congregations; regular religious services; Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young; schools for the preparation of its ministers.

The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics, together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for Federal tax purposes.

--end of excerpt  ---

Harvey Mechanic
Attorney at Law
Harvey108@hotmail.com

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

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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 Harvey108@hotmail.com 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 "site:allexperts.com/q/nonprofit" without the quotes and then add your search terms before hitting enter.

Experience

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.

Education/Credentials

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

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


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