Tax Exempt Status & 
Articles of Incorporation

The ELCA’s group ruling exemption allows ELCA congregations to receive 501(c)(3), federal tax-exempt status without having to file an application for recognition of exemption (Form 1023) with the IRS. But each congregation still needs its own separate EIN. Learn more below.

An EIN or FEIN is a Federal Employer Identification Number, also called a Tax ID or TIN. This is a nine digit number granted by the IRS to identify business entities, whether for-profit or non-profit.

Congregations should obtain their own EIN and should never use the ELCA's EIN.

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.

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 to apply. Be sure to include your congregation's full name and address in your request.

You will receive a letter from the ELCA churchwide office indicating that you are part of the group ruling exemption and therefore have federal tax-exempt status.

Many, if not most, Wisconsin congregations do not have Articles of Incorporation. Rather, they were recognized by the filing of a Certificate through Wisconsin Statute 187.01. This is true even for congregations that were recently incorporated, as the process is simpler and less expensive than filing Articles of Incorporation. In order to obtain a copy of this certificate, a congregation should contact a Title Company who can conduct a search for a small fee.