How to Start a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Ministry

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Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) allows for tax-exemption for churches and non-profit ministries. Application is fairly straightforward, you must follow strict financial and political requirements before your ministry can be approved. Not all churches or ministries have to obtain 501(c)(3) status in order to be tax-exempt, but this designation is required for any contributions to the ministry to be tax-deductible.

Step 1

Ensure that your ministry qualifies for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status under the law as an organization operated exclusively for religious, scientific, educational or charitable purposes with earnings that do not benefit any single private individual or shareholder; with no political ties or influence on legislation; and with no violations of any laws or public policy.

Step 2

Obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS by filling out Form S-4 Application for Employer Identification Number. If filing for an EIN at the same time as 501(c)(3) status, file IRS Form SS-4 with your application.

Step 3

File your application with the IRS by submitting Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code within 27 months of the organization of your ministry.

Step 4

Include the non-refundable filing fee with your application. The amount of the fee changes and can be found at the IRS Exempt Organizations (EO) Web site under the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities division at or by calling (877) 829-5500.

Step 5

Wait for your approval notifying you of your tax-exempt status under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.


  • 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status can be revoked by violating any of the requirements necessary to obtain the status in the first place. This includes making any political statements or endorsing any political party during an election.