Recognition by the College does not grant student organizations the University's federal tax-exempt status. Only the federal government can confer charitable status on an organization. Filing for charitable status (501(c)(3) status) is a lengthy legal procedure which then commits the organization to the rigorous annual reporting procedures required by the IRS. Because of the annual reporting requirements and the frequent turnover of student leadership, we do not encourage student organizations to file for charitable status.
Organizations that are registered with the IRS as a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation must file special financial reports annually with the Secretary of State in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Form PC) and with the IRS (Form 990). Please note that being a charitable non-profit organization is not the same thing as being tax-exempt in Massachusetts. Find more information here.
Most student organizations do not pay salaries to their members, or hire consultants. No earnings of an undergraduate organization may accrue to individual members. (If your organization would like to pay a salary to a member or provide another form of remuneration, you must first obtain approval from the Office of Student Life. Salaries will ordinarily conform to the standard wage for student employment, although special consideration may be given for an organization’s manager.)
If you hire or contract with someone for a service to your organization (e.g. a coach, an accompanist, or an event planner) and that person’s single or cumulative payments exceeds $600 in a year, you must submit a 1099 Form reporting that payment to both the consultant and the IRS. (This threshold amount is determined annually by the IRS and should be confirmed by your organization.) Form 1099 can be obtained here.
Student Organization Filing Requirements
Student organizations are viewed as legally distinct from Harvard University and must independently comply with federal and state laws, including various filing requirements. A memorandum from the Office of General Counsel provides a summary of certain basic legal requirements affecting student organizations. The memorandum can be found here.