IRS Tax Forms  
Publication 557 2001 Tax Year

501(c)(13) -- Cemetery Companies

If your organization wishes to obtain recognition of exemption from federal income tax as a cemetery company or a corporation chartered solely for the purpose of the disposal of human bodies by burial or cremation, it should file an application on Form 1024. For the procedure to follow to file an application, see chapter 1.

A nonprofit mutual cemetery company that seeks recognition of exemption should submit evidence with its application that it is owned and operated exclusively for the benefit of its lot owners who hold lots for bona fide burial purposes and not for purposes of resale. A mutual cemetery company that also engages in charitable activities, such as the burial of paupers, will be regarded as operating within this standard. The fact that a mutual cemetery company limits its membership to a particular class of individuals, such as members of a family, will not affect its status as mutual so long as all the other requirements of section 501(c)(13) are met.

If your organization is a nonprofit corporation chartered solely for the purpose of the disposal of human bodies by burial or cremation, you should show that it is not permitted by its charter to engage in any business not necessarily incident to that purpose. Operating a mortuary is not permitted. However, selling monuments, markers, vaults, and flowers solely for use in the cemetery is permitted if the profits from these sales are used to maintain the cemetery as a whole.

How income may be used. You should show that your organization's earnings are or will be used only in one or more of the following ways.

  1. To pay the ordinary and necessary expenses of operating, maintaining, and improving the cemetery or crematorium.
  2. To buy cemetery property.
  3. To create a fund that will provide a source of income for the perpetual care of the cemetery or a reasonable reserve for any ordinary or necessary purpose.

No part of the net earnings of your organization may benefit any private shareholder or individual.

Ordinary and necessary expenses in connection with the operation, management, maintenance, and improvement of the cemetery are permitted, as are reasonable fees for the services of a manager.

Buying cemetery property. Payments may be made to amortize debt incurred to buy land, but may not be in the nature of profit distributions. You must show the method used to finance the purchase of the cemetery property and that the purchase price of the land at the time of its sale to the cemetery was not unreasonable.

Except for holders of preferred stock (discussed later), no person may have any interest in the net earnings of a tax-exempt cemetery company or crematorium. Therefore, if property is transferred to the organization in exchange for an interest in the organization's net earnings, the organization will not be exempt so long as that interest remains outstanding.

An equity interest in the organization is an interest in the net earnings of the organization. However, an interest in the organization that is not an equity interest may still be an interest in the organization's net earnings. For example, a bond issued by a cemetery company that provides for a fixed rate of interest and also provides for additional interest payments based on the income of the organization is considered an interest in the net earnings of the organization. Similarly, a convertible debt obligation issued after July 7, 1975, is considered an interest in the net earnings of the organization.

Perpetual care organization. A perpetual care organization, including, for example, a trust organized to receive, maintain, and administer funds that it receives from a nonprofit tax-exempt cemetery pursuant to state law and contracts, may apply for recognition of exemption on Form 1024, even though it does not own the land used for burial. However, the income from these funds must be devoted exclusively to the perpetual care and maintenance of the nonprofit cemetery as a whole. Also, no part of the net earnings may benefit any private shareholder or individual.

In addition, a perpetual care organization not operated for profit, but established as a civic enterprise to maintain and administer funds, the income of which is devoted exclusively to the perpetual care and maintenance of an abandoned cemetery as a whole, may qualify for exemption.

Care of individual plots. When funds are received by a cemetery company for the perpetual care of an individual lot or crypt, a trust is created that is subject to federal income tax. Any trust income that is used or permanently set aside for the care, maintenance, or beautification of a particular family burial lot or mausoleum crypt is not deductible in computing the trust's taxable income.

Common and preferred stock. A cemetery company that issues common stock may qualify for exemption only if no dividends may be paid. The payment of dividends must be legally prohibited either by the corporation's charter or by applicable state law.

Generally, a cemetery company or crematorium is not exempt if it issues preferred stock. However, it can still be exempt if the preferred stock was issued before November 28, 1978, or was issued after that date under a written plan adopted before that date. The adoption of the plan must be shown by the acts of the responsible officers and appear on the official records of the organization.

The preferred stock issued either before November 28, 1978, or under a plan adopted before that date, must meet all the following requirements.

  1. The preferred stock entitles the holders to dividends at a fixed rate that is not more than the greater of the legal rate of interest in the state of incorporation or 8% a year on the value of the consideration for which the stock was issued.
  2. The organization's articles of incorporation require:
    1. That the preferred stock be retired at par as rapidly as funds become available from operations, and
    2. That all funds not required for the payment of dividends on or for the retirement of preferred stock be used by the company for the care and improvement of the cemetery property.

Tax treatment of donations. Donations to exempt cemetery companies, corporations chartered solely for human burial purposes, and perpetual care funds (operated in connection with such exempt organizations) are deductible as charitable contributions on the donor's federal income tax return. However, a donor may not deduct a contribution made for the perpetual care of a particular lot or crypt. Payments made to a cemetery company or corporation as part of the purchase price of a burial lot or crypt, whether irrevocably dedicated to the perpetual care of the cemetery as a whole or earmarked for the care of a particular lot, are also not deductible.

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