A great report by Georgia Watch from 2015 that outlines important elements of non-profit tax status that most electric cooperatives use: 501c12 status, with an analysis of whether 6 Georgia co-ops are conforming to the requirements. Note that electric co-ops in Georgia refer to themselves as EMCs, or electric membership corporations.
Here's an excerpt from the report's Executive Summary:
"PROJECT DESCRIPTION: Nearly half the population of Georgia is served by Electric Membership Corporations or Cooperatives (EMCs), and a majority claim tax-exempt status under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.), § 501(c)(12). The IRS imposes several requirements that an EMC has to meet to qualify for this exemption, namely, that (a) an EMC be organized and operated as a cooperative; (b) it conduct one of the listed or essentially similar activities; and (c) it receive at least 85 percent of its income from members. As we have seen recent examples in Georgia of EMC boards apparently acting more in their own interests than that of their membership, Georgia Watch conducted research into EMC practices regarding IRS requirements and democratic membership involvement in governance.
FINDINGS: Georgia Watch found that five out of the six cooperatives we reviewed were compliant with the minimum requirements of the I.R.C. § 501(c) (12), but we observed a range of commitment to compliance with cooperative principles, especially as it relates to wider inclusion of members on governance matters.
Regarding transparency, Georgia Watch believes that the EMCs should itemize and fully disclose the nature and amounts they invest into related or controlled organizations, and proactively make the information regarding their finances and activities publicly available, including online publication, without the need for an interested person to contact a designated official of the cooperative to obtain this information. A fully itemized list of investments made into associated organizations should be included in financial reports in order to show whether these investments are being correctly reported as “program-related”.
Finally, we believe the nature of the relationship between the EMC and its wholesale electricity supplier(s) should be fully disclosed to the cooperative members and general public to allow for assessment of the reasonableness and appropriateness of the current electricity rates set by the EMCs."