At the synod office, we frequently receive questions from congregations re: financial and tax documents. We’ve answered the most common questions below.

Q: Do congregations need to file for their own FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number) or do they fall under the ELCA churchwide number?
A: Congregations should obtain their own EIN and should never use the EIN that belongs to ELCA churchwide.

Q: How do I find my congregation’s FEIN?
A: The IRS recommends the following 3 ways to locate an FEIN:

  1. Look for and check your congregation’s EIN Confirmation Letter from the IRS. (If your congregation signed up for an EIN, the IRS would have sent them a confirmation with their organization and EIN listed directly on the letter.)
  2. Check other places where their EIN would be recorded, such as…
    • IRS form 941 which should be filed quarterly with the IRS.
    • Other IRS tax forms or letters received from the IRS.
    • Payroll documents filed with the IRS (i.e. Form W-2 or 1099). Each of these should have the payer’s FEIN number listed on the form. Any congregation that processes payroll for their staff should have it listed there. If your congregation uses a third party payroll service, you may need to contact them for this information.
  3. If you can’t find your congregation’s FEIN using the first two methods, call the IRS on the IRS Business and Specialty Tax Line at 1-800-829-4933 (Monday – Friday, 7 am – 7 pm local time). An assistor will ask you for identifying information and provide the number to you over the telephone, as long as you are authorized to receive it. Examples of an authorized person include, but are not limited to, a sole proprietor, a partner in a partnership, a corporate officer, a trustee of a trust, or an executor of an estate.

Q: Do congregations need their own 501(c)3 form or are they covered under the ELCA churchwide document?
A: Congregations can participate in ELCA churchwide’s group ruling exemption to obtain federal tax-exempt status. However, this is not something that happens automatically. The congregation should email 501c3@elca.org to apply.

Q: Do congregations need to file their own tax-exempt status letter individually or are they covered under the ELCA churchwide letter?
A: If the congregation participates in ELCA churchwides’s group ruling exemption (see previous question for application instructions), they will receive a letter from ELCA churchwide indicating that they are part of the group ruling exemption, and therefore have federal tax-exempt status.

We will continue to update this page as new information becomes available.