Florida law authorizes forming a not-for-profit corporation for a variety of purposes, such as for social, charitable, educational and religious activities. The primary aspect of a not-for-profit corporation is that no dividends or profits from the corporation are distributed to any member, officer or director of the corporation. Forming the not-for-profit corporation requires compliance with Florida corporate law, while obtaining tax-exempt status or authority to solicit charitable donations requires compliance with other state and federal laws.
A not-for-profit corporation is governed by the Florida Not For Profit Corporation Act, which sets forth the requirements for forming, operating and dissolving not-for-profit corporations. The Division of Corporations of the Florida Department of State oversees compliance with these requirements. Through its website, Sunbiz.org, the division provides forms and information on how to form a not-for-profit corporation. Forming the corporation can be done by downloading, completing and filing articles of incorporation, or the information required for the articles can be submitted electronically through the Sunbiz.org website (see Resources). If the corporation intends to apply for tax-exempt status, its articles must include a description of its purpose and a plan for distributing its assets when it dissolves, such as donating the assets to a similar not-for-profit organization.
A not-for-profit corporation desiring tax-exempt status -- commonly referred to as a "501(c)(3) organization" -- must apply to the Internal Revenue Service. In Florida, as in other states, obtaining IRS approval for tax-exempt status is a prerequisite for state tax-exempt treatment. The application for tax-exempt status is provided by the IRS -- called Form 1023 -- which requires much information and supporting documentation. Preparing and filing this form is best done with the assistance of an attorney or accountant who is knowledgeable about not-for-profit organizations.
Sales and Use Tax Exemptions
To obtain an exemption from state sales and use tax, a Florida not-for-profit corporation must file an application with the Department of Revenue, called Form DR-5 (see Resources). The application can only be submitted after first obtaining an 501(c)(3) Determination Letter from the IRS approving tax-exempt status. A copy of this letter must accompany the DR-5 application. Upon approval by the Department of Revenue, a Consumer's Certificate of Exemption will be issued to the not-for-profit corporation. The certificate is valid for five years and can be renewed.
Registration to Solicit Donations
If the not-for-profit corporation intends to raise funds by soliciting donations, it must register with the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. The department provides an eight-page application with an instruction booklet (see Resources). Registration must be renewed every year. The application requires financial disclosures that the department makes available to the public.
- Florida Legislature: Florida Statutes -- Corporations Not For Profit
- Florida Division of Corporations -- Sunbiz.org
- IRS: Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization
- Florida Department of Revenue: State Income Tax- Exemption for Not-for-Profit Corporation
- Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services: Solicitation of Contributions
- John C. Hamlin, P.A.: Starting Up a Nonprofit Organization in Florida
- Sunbiz.org: Articles of Incorporation (Not for Profit)
- Sunbiz.org: Articles of Incorporation for Florida NonProfit Corporation (E-Filing)
- IRS: Application for Recognition of Exemption
- Florida Department of Revenue: Application for Consumer's Certificate of Exemption
- Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services: Registration for Charitable Organizations
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