Bible Answer

Why apply for IRS recognition?

I notice that VBVMI applied for 501(c)(3) status with the I.R.S. Why did you choose to subject your ministry to government oversight when it wasn't necessary?

In the United States a "non-profit" status may make an organization eligible for certain benefits, such as state sales, property, and income tax exemptions; however, this corporate status does not automatically grant exemption from federal income tax. To be tax-exempt, most organizations must apply for recognition of exemption from the Internal Revenue Service to obtain a ruling or determination letter recognizing tax exemption. 

While VBVMI was not obligated to apply for such recognition by the IRS, there are several advantages to doing so. First, obtaining IRS recognition protects a non-profit from future tax disputes with the IRS and potential tax penalties.

Secondly, many corporate donors (and individual donors) require IRS recognition of non-profit status as a pre-requisite for making contributions.

Finally, IRS recognition offers assurance to our donors that our ministry stewards our finances in a transparent and lawful manner.

For these reason, the VBVMI Board of Director determined that it was prudent to seek IRS recognition of our non-profit status under section 501(c)(3) of the Code. This action removes unnecessary barriers to future donations while eliminating any tax burden that might reduce our operating funds. 

More importantly, submitting to governmental requirements in these matters is not only prudent but also biblical. As Paul commanded the church:

Rom. 13:1  Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 
Rom. 13:2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 
Rom. 13:3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 
Rom. 13:4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 
Rom. 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 
Rom. 13:6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 

Notice that Paul specifically mentions we are to be in subjection to the government on matters of paying taxes, which include seeking tax-exempt status in lawful ways.

Furthermore, Jesus gives similar instructions to His disciples:

Mark 12:14 They  came and  said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 
Mark 12:15 “Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.”
Mark 12:16 They brought one. And He  said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 
Mark 12:17 And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him. 

Jesus commands us to render to the government what the government requires because the government is empowered by God in matters of taxation (among other matters). Therefore, the Church must set a good example by obeying the government in this area. Since the United States government makes available a process for lawful exemption from taxes, VBVMI chose to pursue that process in keeping with the law.