1. Methods of Obtaining a Copy of Bylaws for Nonprofit Organizations
2. Obtaining a Copy of Bylaws for an LLC Business
3. Steps for Using the SEC Search Database
4. Right to Inspect a Private Business's Bylaws

Updated October 23, 2020:

Unsure of how to get a copy of bylaws? You will find that there are a few ways to collect this important information. The process used to obtain a copy of a business's bylaws will depend on what type of business it is registered as.

Methods of Obtaining a Copy of Bylaws for Nonprofit Organizations

There are a few methods available to obtain a copy of a nonprofit organization's bylaws:

  • Request a copy directly from one of the nonprofit's business officers or board members: Federal law requires that some businesses, such as nonprofits, provide you with a copy of bylaws if requested. It is possible that there will be a small fee to cover the administrative tasks involved. You can usually find contact information for a nonprofit's board members by searching online.
  • Fill out a request form with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): The IRS requires all tax-exempt businesses to file a copy of their bylaws. Filling out form 4506-A will get you a copy of them.
  • Check with state agencies: Many states have regulatory agencies that hold records of bylaws. In some cases, this may be the state attorney general's office.

Obtaining a Copy of Bylaws for an LLC Business

A limited liability company (LLC) is a common type of business because it allows business owners to operate individually without having to use board members. LLC's also offer many legal and tax benefits. Unlike nonprofit businesses, LLC bylaws are not public record, so they can be more challenging to obtain.

Complete the following steps to obtain a copy of bylaws for an LLC business:

  • Step 1: Request a copy from the secretary of state in the business's registered state. Depending on your location, there may be a small fee.
  • Step 2: Contact the company for a copy of its bylaws. It is possible that the business could deny the request.
  • Step 3: Search the EDGAR database. This system is regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It is possible that the business has filed a copy of its bylaws in the database.
  • Step 4: Work with a business attorney. This option may not make sense for everyone as it can be costly and time-consuming.

Steps for Using the SEC Search Database

Interested parties can identify information about a publicly traded company by searching on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website (EDGAR system) with the following steps:

  • Search for the company by name.
  • Pull up the records of the company.
  • Open form 10-K.
  • Scroll to the end of form 10-K to the Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules section. This section should provide you with additional information about where to locate the bylaws, including the date that they were filed.
  • Search the list for the correct filing date.
  • Select the correct filing date.
  • Search documents.
  • Click through to the form K-10 exhibits list.
  • Open the copy of the registered bylaws.

Right to Inspect a Private Business's Bylaws

There are many reasons that a person might want to access a copy of a business's bylaws. For example, if a person wants to invest in a business, he would want additional information about the business, including its bylaws. Publicly traded businesses, as well as nonprofits, are required to provide a copy of their bylaws to all interested parties.

This process, however, becomes trickier when dealing with private companies. One might wonder who has a right to private company bylaws. A private company does not have a public record, making it more difficult to obtain this information.

Members of the board of directors and shareholders already have access to the business's bylaws. Therefore, someone requesting a copy of the bylaws of a private company is often not someone who works with or is directly related to the business. The specific rights will depend on the state and their laws surrounding bylaw records.

An individual can always try to obtain a copy of a privately owned company's bylaws, but it is always possible that the request will be denied.

If you need help with obtaining a copy of a business's bylaws, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.