The following guidelines provide background information on the most common types of filings and the related exemptions in Florida.
In this state, religious organizations are automatically exempt from charitable registration requirements. The religious exemption is not limited to IRS Form 990 Non-Filers, such as churches.
Per the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the Solicitation of Contributions Act (Fla. Stat. 496.401-496.424) requires anyone who solicits donations from people in the state of Florida to register with FDACS and renew annually. “This applies to charitable organizations, sponsors…” but it “does not apply to bona fide religious or educational institutions, government agencies or political groups. These groups do not file with FDACS.”
Per Fla. Stat. 496.404(23), a religious institution means:
“a church, ecclesiastical or denominational organization, or established physical place for worship in this state at which nonprofit religious services and activities are regularly conducted and carried on, and includes those bona fide religious groups that do not maintain specific places of worship. The term also includes a separate group or corporation that forms an integral part of a religious institution that is exempt from federal income tax under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and that is not primarily supported by funds solicited outside its own membership or congregation.”
A charitable organization would need to be considered a religious institution in order to be exempt from Fla. Stat. 496.401-496.424 and the requirement to file with FDACS.* In order to be considered a religious institution, the charitable organization (“group or corporation”) should “form an integral part of a religious institution that is exempt from federal income tax” and should not be “primarily supported by funds solicited outside its own membership or congregation.**
* Charitable is “used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.”
** Charitable and/or religious organizations qualify for federal income tax exemption by definition.
Florida does not accept the unified registration statement, so the state-specific charitable registration form must be used.
Some states require organizations to appoint a “registered agent” in the state as part of the organization’s charitable registration. This state does not currently have this requirement.
This state requires organizations to include specific statements whenever the organization is requesting donations (also called “charitable solicitation”). Religious organizations generally are not required to include this statement, but posting the language is often a best practice to build trust with donors and state regulators. Below is sample language to use with charitable solicitations in this state:
*ORG* is based in *STATE*. The solicitation is made in support of *ORG*’s religious purpose to *PURPOSE*. Questions about *ORG* can be directed to *NAME* at *PHONE*. Upon request, *ORG* can provide: (1) the amount of this contribution which is deductible as a charitable contribution under federal income tax law; and (2) a written financial statement. *ORG*’s registration does not imply endorsement.
Depending on the type and volume of activities an organization has in this state, the organization may also need to register as an out-of-state business (sometimes called a “foreign business”) with the secretary of state or another state agency. These foreign business registration requirements are separate from the charitable registration. Not every out-of-state organization needs to register. An attorney can assist the organization in determining whether its connections with this state are significant enough to trigger the foreign business registration requirement. Examples of activities that might trigger this requirement include having employees physically located in the state, conducting programs in the state, and having an office in the state.
In this state, there is no state income tax exemption for organizations that have received recognition of federal income tax exemption. It is also important to consider whether applying for sales and use tax and property tax exemption would be appropriate for your organization. More information regarding Florida tax exemption is available at the Florida Department of Revenue website and on local county websites, such as this one. An accountant or attorney can provide answers to specific questions regarding your organization’s eligibility for exemption.
This state does not have a corporate franchise tax.
Foreign Nonprofit Business Registration:
Online Registration: https://www.fdacs.gov/Business-Services/Solicitation-of- Contributions
This resource contains general educational information related to legal concepts, but this information does not constitute legal advice. Anyone seeking legal advice is strongly encouraged to consult with a licensed attorney regarding any of the matters discussed herein. Although licensed attorneys work with Napa Legal, Napa Legal is not a law firm and does not undertake legal representation on behalf of any clients. Further, no licensed attorney working with or on behalf of Napa Legal agrees to undertake legal representation on behalf of any client unless the terms of such representation are set forth in a separate, written representation agreement.