Are you wondering how to register a charity organization? In order to register an organization with the Attorney General's Charities Bureau, you must submit Form CHAR410, a registration statement, along with other documents, like a copy of your business's Certificate of Incorporation, bylaws, financial report (if the business is more than a year old), and a tax exemption letter from the IRS if applicable.

Who Must Register With the Charities Bureau?

Most of the charitable organizations operating in the state of New York are required to register with the Attorney General's Charities Bureau. These include organizations holding property for charitable purposes, engaged in charitable activities, or soliciting charitable contributions in New York.

New York Law defines the term charity in a broad manner to include a wide variety of activities relating to poverty, health, education, culture, and several other community services. The law however exempts certain types of charities, such as religious organizations, from the requirement of mandatory registration. If you feel that your organization is exempt from registration, you should submit Schedule E, a request for exemption. Upon receipt, the Charities Bureau will determine whether your organization is eligible for exemption.

Filing Requirements for Registration With the Charities Bureau

You must submit the following documents for registration with the Charities Bureau:

  • Registration statement - Form CHAR410
  • A copy of the organization's Certificate of Incorporation, constitution, or trust instrument
  • A copy of the business's bylaws or internal governing documents
  • If you have applied for federal tax exemption, a copy of the application in IRS Form 1023 or 1024
  • If your business has received tax exempt status, a copy of the IRS letter confirming same
  • A copy of the previous year's financial report if the organization is more than a year old.
  • If you solicit public contributions, a registration fee of $25

Organizations Exempted From registration

Following charity organizations are exempted from registration:

  • Religious organizations and houses of worship
  • Charity organizations operated by religious organizations
  • Membership organizations that do not seek public contributions
  • Parent-teacher associations
  • Government agencies
  • Educational institutions

Other organizations are exempt from registration based on their activities and solicitation of funds from the public. Schedule E, the exemption request form, contains a list of exempted categories of charity organizations.

Annual Filing Requirements for Registered Organizations

An organization registered with the Charities Bureau must file an annual financial report in Form CHAR500 along with a copy of the following documents, if applicable:

  • IRS Forms 990, 990-EZ, and 990-PF along with the relevant schedules
  • Audit report from an independent Certified Public Accountant

You must also pay the stipulated filing fees for submitting the documents.

Collecting Money for a Friend's Treatment: Should You Register?

Sometimes, we may need to collect money to help a friend or neighbor suffering from an illness. Such collection does not amount to charity and is exempt from registration. However, the whole of the collected contributions must be used for the intended purpose.

You may designate up to three alternate beneficiaries if the collected funds cannot be completely used by or for the intended beneficiary. If you choose to designate an alternate beneficiary, you must file Form CHAR017 (Charitable Solicitation for the Relief of an Individual) with the Charities Bureau.

Registering Charitable Solicitations

Charitable solicitations and fundraising activities are regulated at the state level. In many states, it's mandatory to register a charitable nonprofit organization and any professional hired as counsel or consultant for the fundraising activity. Many states also require nonprofit organizations entering into a revenue sharing agreement with another organization to file a disclosure of such a commercial co-venture with the state. You should register with the state where you are soliciting donations.

Fundraising regulations vary from state to state. However, irrespective of the mode of solicitation your organization employs (website, email, social media, phone calls, text messages, postal service, personal requests, etc.) most of the states regulate the activity if it amounts to solicitation. It's a good idea to visit the website of the concerned state agency for up-to-date information on the filing requirements.

Often, more than one officer of the organization must sign the registration form, so you should start preparing the forms well before the filing deadlines. Many states require you to renew the registration in subsequent years. An increasing number of states are moving to online registration.

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