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Are Religious Organizations Exempt from State Charitable Solicitation Registration?

By: Ron Barrett, COGENCY GLOBAL on Thu, Nov 19, 2020

Charitable Registrations and Exemptions for Houses of Worship and Religious OrganizationsIt’s true that most houses of worship (churches, synagogues, mosques and temples) may legally solicit charitable donations without registering pursuant to state charitable solicitation acts. Most states either provide an exemption from charitable registration or don’t require registration for houses of worship.

Most states also provide exemptions for charities formed that support religious purposes, especially if they are controlled or operated by houses of worship.

Unfortunately, ‘most’ doesn’t really answer the question. State charitable registration requirements are complicated, especially regarding houses of worship and religious organizations.

While there are few clean-cut, easy answers, the following information may help you determine where charitable registration exemptions are available to houses of worship and religious organizations.

States Where Charitable Registration Is Not Required

To start off, there are nine states that do not require registration by any charitable nonprofits:

  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

Arizona and Texas do have charitable registration statutes, but they are limited in scope and are not applicable to religious organizations or houses of worship.

Charitable Registration Exemptions for Houses of Worship

Houses of worship (churches, synagogues, mosques and temples) are exempt from charitable solicitation registration in every state if they aren’t required to file a Form 990 with the IRS. This often includes their integrated auxiliaries, conventions, or associations.

Exemption may entail filing an exemption application or submitting a written exemption request in up to 12 of the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland*
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • Utah

*Houses of worship using the services of professional fundraisers are required to register in Maryland.

If a house of worship is required to file a Form 990 with the IRS, it would need to register to solicit in the following 15 states (exemptions in HI, MI and MN would no longer apply):

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Registrations and Exemptions for Religious Organizations

Beyond houses of worship, many states broaden their definition of a ‘religious organization’ to also include charities primarily formed for religious purposes. The challenge here is that ‘religious organization’ is interpreted differently state to state.

Religious organizations (excluding houses of worship) that are not required to file a Form 990 with the IRS should carefully review state statutes to determine whether state registration is required. For more info, download our free chart on state-by-state charitable solicitation registration for religious organizations.

Charities organized for religious purposes that are required to file a 990 with the IRS may be exempt in up to 21 states, 8 of which require filing an exemption application or submitting a written request for exemption. While not required, an optional exemption application can be filed in New York and Ohio:

  • Alabama*
  • Arkansas*
  • California
  • Connecticut*
  • District of Columbia*
  • Illinois*
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland*
  • Missouri*
  • Nevada*
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island

As with houses of worship, religious organizations using the services of a professional fundraiser are not exempt in Maryland.

If an exemption is not available or an application/letter is not filed, religious organizations that file Form 990s would need to register to solicit in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Help for Your Charitable Registrations and Exemptions Research

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer on whether religious organizations are exempt from state charitable solicitation registrations. Each state defines ‘religious organization’ in a different way, which can make it unclear whether an organization with a religious purpose is actually eligible for exemption from charitable registration. Plus, there are often exceptions to the charitable registration exemptions that states extend to religious organizations.

Want to simplify the process of determining state requirements for a house of worship? COGENCY GLOBAL's Charitable Registrations and Exemptions Wizard (CREW) can help.

Take Me to CREW

 

This content is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.

Topics: Nonprofit Registration and Compliance, Charitable Solicitation Registration