Does your nonprofit need to register in multiple states?

If your not-for-profit solicits funds online — or uses other fundraising methods that cross state boundaries — it may need to register in multiple jurisdictions. We’ve answered some commonly asked questions.

My charity receives occasional contributions from out-of-state donors. Do I need to register with those states? Yes, but only if you’re actually asking for donations in those states. The critical activity is soliciting, not accepting, funds. Remember, email and text blasts and social media appeals are likely to be considered multistate solicitations.

That said, some nonprofits are generally exempt from registering or may need to register but aren’t required to file annually. For example, many states exempt houses of worship as well as nonprofits with total annual income under certain thresholds.

So registration rules vary by state? That’s right. A handful of states don’t require charities to register at all. The remaining ones have varying rules, income thresholds, exceptions, registration fees and fines for violations. Even the agencies that regulate charities differ by state.

How much does it cost to register? Again, this varies by state — generally ranging from $0 to $2,000.

Is there a simple way to register with every state? Unfortunately not. Most states require you to complete a general information form and submit it with your last financial statement, a list of officers and directors, a copy of your originating document and your IRS-issued tax-exempt determination letter.

First-time registrants can use a Unified Registration Statement in most states. However, even those states mandate that annual renewals and reports be submitted using individual state forms.

What are the consequences of not registering in states where my nonprofit raises funds? Your organization, officers and board members could face civil and criminal penalties. Your charity might lose its ability to solicit funds in certain states or lose its tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Do I need to tell the IRS where my nonprofit is registered? Yes; Form 990 asks you to list the states where you’re required to file a copy of your return.

Given the resources involved, you may wonder if out-of-state donations are worth the trouble. For some nonprofits, it may make sense to focus exclusively on local fundraising. Contact us and we’ll help you weigh the pros and cons.

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