Updated July 10, 2020: 

The process of how to incorporate a church in Georgia include the following 12 steps:

  1. Name your church.
  2. Recruit incorporators and directors.
  3. Appoint a registered agent.
  4. File articles of incorporation.
  5. Publish.
  6. Get an EIN.
  7. Establish initial governing documents and policies.
  8. Hold meetings of the board.
  9. Obtain Georgia state tax identification numbers.
  10. Apply for 501(c)(3) status.
  11. Apply for Georgia state tax-exempt status.
  12. Register for charitable solicitation.

How to Start and Incorporate a Nonprofit in Georgia

Churches are a form of nonprofit organization. By incorporating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, you'll be eligible to accept donations and apply for grants, claim exemption from federal corporate incomes taxes, and limit the directors' and officers' liability.

  1. Name Your Church: Your church's name establishes your brand, but it is also important for incorporating in Georgia: The legal name of your church may not match any organization that is already incorporated in Georgia. Therefore, ensure the name meets state requirements.
  2. Recruit Incorporators and Directors: You will need at least one incorporator, the person who signs the articles of incorporation for a nonprofit. Identify three unrelated directors, and make sure you're aware of residency requirements for directors. Director terms are served for one year, and a majority of directors must be present to make quorum. Officers authenticate the corporation records and prepare meeting minutes. The same person can hold two or more offices.
  3. Appoint a Registered Agent: Registered agents must live in the state and maintain regular office hours during business hours. They are responsible for receiving legal notices on the organization's behalf.
  4. File Articles of Incorporation: The articles of incorporation mark the founding of your nonprofit. Language requirements vary by state, but the IRS does look for basic provisions when determining whether the organization is eligible for 501(c)(3) exemption. Customize the articles of incorporation for your church organization to make sure you meet both Georgia state and IRS requirements.
  5. Publish: In Georgia, new, domestic nonprofit corporations are required to publish notice of incorporation. This must be filed no later than one business day following formally filing the articles.
  6. Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN): The EIN is a unique nine-digit number the IRS assigns. You will need it to apply for 501(c)(3) status as well as to open a bank account for your organization or submit 990 returns to the IRS.
  7. Establish Initial Governing Documents and Policies: The board of directors will review and approve the bylaws of your church organization at its first meeting. The bylaws, which need to be consistent with the law and your articles of incorporation, will serve as your governance road map moving forward. Create a conflict of interest policy at this time too. Your 501(c)(3) IRS application requires that both the bylaws and conflict of interest policy be approved first.
  8. Hold Meetings of the Board: The board will need to appoint officers, elect directors, and approve resolutions in addition to approving the bylaws and adopting a conflict of interest policy at the first meeting. All decisions should be recorded in the meeting minutes.
  9. Obtain Georgia State Tax Identification Numbers: You can submit Georgia's consolidated state tax registration application online to the Georgia Department of Revenue.
  10. Apply for 501(c)(3) Status: Applying to the IRA for tax-exempt status is a major step that comes with several benefits. Consider hiring a professional to help ensure your application is completed accurately.
  11. Apply for Georgia State Tax Exempt Status: File for tax exemption status for state income tax and state sales tax through the Georgia Department of Revenue.
  12. Register for Charitable Solicitation: Any nonprofit soliciting donations in Georgia must apply for charitable solicitation status on an annual basis. You may also need to register in other states if you conduct fundraising activities outside of Georgia.

Annual Filings for Georgia Nonprofit Organizations

There are several annual filings that any nonprofit, including a church, must file in the state of Georgia. These include (but not limited to):

  • The Annual Registration Form, which must be filed by April 1 with the Georgia secretary of state.
  • A copy of form 990, 990-EZ, and 990-PF must be filed with the Georgia Department of Revenue four and a half months after the end of the fiscal year.
  • Form 600-T must also be filed with the Georgia Department of Revenue four and a half months after the end of the fiscal year. This filing is only required if the organization has income that is unrelated to its exempt purposes.

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