Welcome to our North Carolina nonprofit resource guide! This free guide will help you understand how to start your nonprofit in North Carolina and become 501(c)(3) tax exempt. You will find step-by-step instructions and get answers to common questions like "what does it cost?" and "how many board members do I need?".
Did you know that setting up a nonprofit is different in every state? This guide is specific to North Carolina. If you are looking for a different state, please visit our Information Center.
Setting up a nonprofit is a lot of complex work. Fortunately there's an easier way. We're here to help you set up your nonprofit and stay compliant. Enjoy the following benefits of working with us:
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If you're starting out with little or no funds, gaining professional assistance is rarely an option. In that case, you may want to commit to researching the process and filing government applications on your own. This route is not for the faint of heart but is certainly achievable if you work diligently. The following step-by-step guide should help you as you undertake this process.
As you begin, take a moment to consider if you should start a new non-profit organization. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there were over 44,000 nonprofit organizations in North Carolina in 2009. To decide if a new nonprofit is necessary...
The most common legal structure for a nonprofit is a nonprofit corporation. Less common options include a B-Corporation, nonprofit LLC, L3C, unincorporated nonprofit association, and a trust. If you are undecided, learn about legal structures for nonprofits.
Your options in North Carolina:
The rest of this article assumes you are creating a nonprofit corporation.
The legal name of your nonprofit corporation may not conflict with any other registered name. Check availability of your desired name by conducting a name search.
Identify the nonprofit’s North Carolina Registered Agent. This individual or company receives notice of lawsuit and other legal service for the corporation.
Below is an overview of the paperwork, cost, and time to start an North Carolina nonprofit.Paperwork
File articles of incorporation to create your non-profit corporation.
Filing of the articles of incorporation by the NC Secretary of State is proof that the nonprofit has fulfilled the minimum statutory requirements to incorporate. They will stamp the articles with the date the corporation is created. The signed original will be retained by the state and a copy will be returned to the incorporator.
Articles of Incorporation are not required to be filed with the NC Register of Deeds.
Your filed articles of incorporation are the first document for your nonprofit corporate records. Your corporation will generate many other official records such as bylaws, meeting minutes, and your EIN.
Office supplies intended for a nonprofit corporation will help you stay organized and save time. Optionally, get a company record book, seal, and document templates.
Draft bylaws (potentially using a template) which is the governing document for the nonprofit. You will review and ratify the bylaws at your first board of directors meeting.
Hold the first meeting of the board of directors. At this meeting, the nonprofit should approve the bylaws, elect additional directors, appoint officers, and approve initial resolutions such as opening a company bank account. Keep minutes of this meeting.
Your nonprofit must obtain an EIN regardless of whether it will hire employees.
The NC Secretary of State automatically notifies the NC Department of Revenue of your incorporation. The Department of Revenue send you a six-part questionnaire (Form CD-345) to be used for determination of tax status in regards to corporate and franchise taxes.
For other state taxes, North Carolina offers a consolidated state tax registration application:
Additional registrations might be required for other NC business tax types.
Save money and build credibility by obtaining 501(c) federal income tax exemption. This is most difficult and costly step of setting up a nonprofit.
501(c) is the chapter of the Internal Revenue Code that defines nonprofit tax exemptions. Charitable, religious, and educational organizations seek exemption under 501(c)(3) and apply for recognition by filing Form 1023.
The IRS will return a Determination Letter which officially recognized your exemption.
Upon incorporation, the NC Secretary of State automatically notifies the NC Department of Revenue of your incorporation. The Department of Revenue send you a six-part questionnaire (Form CD-345) to be used for determination of tax status in regards to corporate and franchise taxes. Your nonprofit is subject to NC Corporate Income Tax until it obtains an exemption. The state will issue your organization a formal letter of tax exemption if you receive exemption. NC does not issue tax exempt numbers.
NC does not provide sales and use tax exemption on items nonprofits purchase, but rather semiannual refunds for qualified purchases made by qualified organizations (G.S. 105164.14). To register, the organization must complete Form NC-BR (see Step #10 above). There is no fee for registering.
Apply for NC property tax exemption, if qualified, under the Machinery Act (G.S. 105282.1(a)).
Certain nonprofit organizations that purchase and use motor fuel may receive a quarterly refund for the excise tax paid by applying with Form Gas 1200, Application for Refund of Road Tax Due on Motor Fuels (G.S. 105449.106).
Before soliciting any funds or hiring solicitors, you must complete your charitable organization registration in each state where you will raise funds.
If you need to register in many states, review our guide “Charitable Solicitation Registration using the Unified Registration Statement (URS)”. 39 states accept the URS, including North Carolina.
To file only in North Carolina:
To run your business legally, you must obtain applicable licenses and permits. The easiest way to navigate the wide range of federal, state, and local requirements is to search by your business type and locality using the Small Business Administration Business License & Permit look-up tool.
North Carolina nonprofits who wish to raise funds by hosting charitable gambling should be aware:
You must file federal and state tax returns. You must also file: