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IRS awards independent tax-exempt status to the Notebook

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent, nonprofit news organization launched in 1994, has been awarded 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Notebook publishes in-depth education news daily online at thenotebook.org, as well as a bimonthly print newspaper. For its first 19 years, it operated as a project of the nonprofit incubator at Resources for Human Development, a tax-exempt human service organization.

Last year, the Notebook separated from RHD into its own offices in Center City and submitted its application for tax-exempt status to the IRS. For the last year, while awaiting the IRS ruling, the Notebook has operated as part of the Investigative News Network, a national association of nonprofit, public interest news organizations.

“This is another important milestone for the Notebook right on the heels of our 20th anniversary,” said Notebook editor and publisher Paul Socolar. “We’ve worked hard at maintaining high standards as a nonprofit organization and as a news outlet, and it’s great to have this affirmation of our efforts.”


Click to enlarge The IRS ruling allows the Notebook to directly accept tax-deductible donations from individuals and foundations, and elevates the organization to the same legal status as news organizations like National Public Radio, Consumer Reports, and Pro Publica. The Notebook is funded by a mix of memberships and other contributions from individuals and organizations, foundation grants, and advertising revenues. All those revenues can now flow directly to the Notebook rather than through another nonprofit, tax-exempt fiscal agent.

The new status will allow the Notebook to solicit funds from a number of foundations and organizations that do not make pass-through donations through a tax-exempt fiscal sponsor.

Around the country, a number of nonprofit news organizations that have applied to the IRS for tax exemption have waited well over a year for their applications to be processed, but the Notebook’s IRS determination took just nine months.

The Notebook benefited from valuable guidance on the application process from Kevin Davis, CEO and executive director of the Investigative News Network.

Special thanks go to attorneys Jared T. Zane and Emmeline Babb of the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, who provided pro bono legal assistance throughout the Notebook’s process of incorporating as a nonprofit and filing for tax-exempt status.

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