What Is the Difference Between a Private Foundation and a Public Charity?

An Estate Planning FAQ with Mary E. Vandenack.

Private foundations and public charities are both tax exempt entities under section 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code. The differences are that a public charity qualifies for a little more in terms of tax benefits. If you make a contribution to an organization that qualifies as a public charity, there is a little bit larger percentage that you can deduct in certain circumstances. The limitations aren’t as significant on the private foundation. The public charity is typically one that benefits the public at large rather than a smaller group. The private foundation is more typically formed by a smaller group and benefits a smaller group of individuals.

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How Do I Form a 501c3 Public Charity?

An Estate Planning FAQ with M. Thomas Langan II.

A 501(c)(3) public charity is a non-profit organization that is exempt from federal income tax. These organizations must be organized and carried out for certain exempt purposes, which include charitable, educational, religious and scientific purposes.

There are several ways to create a 501(c)(3) entity. The most common way is to first form a non-profit corporation. This is typically done by filing articles of incorporation with your state’s Secretary of State. At this point you just have a non-profit corporation. In order to be tax exempt federally, you need to take the extra step of filing for exempt status with the IRS by filing Form 1023. The application must be complete and accompanied with the appropriate user fee.

If the application is approved, you then have a 501(c)(3) public charity and are subject to annual reporting requirements.

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What Is a 501c3?

An Estate Planning FAQ with Mary E. Vandenack.

501(c)(3) is actually a section of the tax code that provides for the ability of an entity to fit into certain parameters and claim tax exempt status. In the section 501(c)(3) there are actually quite a few different types of organizations that will qualify for tax exempt status. The type that most people are familiar with is the public charity, so the American Red Cross and organizations like that are typically tax exempt entities and are actually subject to certain types of taxes but they have a general tax exempt status.

© 2014 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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