Ask the Nonprofit Specialists


Where is Our Tax Exempt Application in the Process?

We are frequently asked how long it will take to obtain a letter of determination once the IRS form 1023 (Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code) is filed. It is important to know that you have the power to make an inquiry.

It would be helpful to understand how the IRS responds to applications. Not all applications are treated the same. While many are complete when received and involve straight-forward scenarios, others may be incomplete and involve complex issues that require further development. This frequently asked question describes the application process and provides information on how to determine the status of an application.

The process

Exemption applications (accompanied by the required user fee) are initially separated into the following four categories when they are received at the IRS:

  • Those that can be approved immediately based on the information submitted,
  • Those that need minor additional information to be resolved,
  • Those that are submitted on obsolete forms or do not include the item specified on the procedural checklist, and
  • Those that require development.

If your application falls into one of the first three categories, you will receive either your letter of determination or a request for additional information, via phone, fax, or letter within approximately 90 days of the date the application was submitted.

If your application falls into the fourth category, you will be contacted once the application is assigned to an agent for further development. Because these applications may experience some "wait time" before they are assigned, the IRS regularly publishes the receipt date for applications currently being assigned to help you track your application.

If you submitted your application over 90 days ago and haven't been contacted by the IRS, you may want to contact the toll-free Customer Account Services at 877.829.5500. You will need the following information when calling:

  • The name of the organization on whose behalf the request was submitted;
  • The organization's employer identification number (EIN);
  • The document locator number assigned by the request (if you have received one), and
  • A proper Power of Attorney submitted with the exemption application, unless you are an officer or director and legally authorized to represent the organization.


The volume of applications reaching the IRS is quite heavy. While you can, with some effort, track the progress of your application, we counsel patience allowing the IRS to do its work. This process should be reserved for those who have gone well beyond the 90 days since submission. 

Note: The documentation of the above IRS information can be obtained here:

(This list of questions regarding has been developed by the many persons and organizations seeking assistance from the Lodestar Center.)

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