How to Register a 501(c)(3)

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The creation of a charitable nonprofit organization is a step-by-step process that requires contact with many local, state and federal government offices. 501(c)(3) organizations include "religious groups, museums, environmental and educational organizations, libraries and the many helping groups referred to as 'charities,'" according to the Society for Nonprofits. Nonprofits are created to assist individuals in their own cities and around the world. To get started helping others, however, their organizers must first set up and register the organization with the appropriate authorities.

  • Incorporate your nonprofit organization. This registers the 501(c)(3) with your state's secretary of state. File articles of incorporation and pay a registration fee, which varies from state to state. It may also be necessary to file a copy of your organization's bylaws with the secretary of state.

  • Contact your state's attorney general or other fundraising regulatory office about registering your charity. This is required in many states to protect the public from fund raising by organizations that claim to be nonprofits but that really keep the money raised for themselves. In Texas, for example, it is not necessary to register a 501(c)(3) with the state attorney general unless it is raising money for public safety, veterans or law enforcement causes.

  • Contact your state's department of revenue about registering your organization to pay state taxes. You may be able to complete this process online, depending on whether your state's department of revenue's website offers this option.

  • Get in touch with your city and county tax authorities to register your nonprofit. Your organization may be exempt from having to pay property taxes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Apply for federal tax exempt status to become a 501(c)(3) organization by filling out Form 1023. This application is long and complicated, so it may be helpful to consult a nonprofit lawyer for assistance in filling out and submitting it.

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