IRS Classification: Public Charity or Private Foundation?

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization may be classified by the IRS as either a public charity or a private foundation.

Except for those nonprofits that are granted automatic charity status, such as churches, it is the organization’s responsibility to notify the IRS, by filing Form 1023, that it wants to be a public charity. Otherwise, it will automatically be categorized as a private foundation. Ensuring a correct categorization is important, because different regulations apply depending on your organization’s classification.

This paper is designed to help you decide whether your organization should apply for public charity or private foundation classification.


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June 2016


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