Confusion about the IRS’s processes and standards has led to criticism of the IRS for being arbitrary in its decision-making process and adverse to the journalism industry.
But while there have been controversial decisions by the IRS in particular cases, it is critical to understand that the IRS’s primary duty with respect to these applications is to protect the public fisc by ensuring that only organizations that meet criteria enacted by the United States Congress are granted a Section 501(c)(3) exemption. Although the IRS has some discretion in applying these criteria, it does not have the authority to recognize broad new categories of tax-exempt organizations, such as news outlets.
Until and unless there is action in Congress to facilitate tax exemptions for journalism non-profits, news organizations seeking 501(c)(3) status must learn how to structure their operations to meet the existing standards applied by the IRS. To that end, this guide is intended to provide practical information regarding the standards that the IRS applies in determining whether to grant federal tax-exempt status to a non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3).