The following provides information about common issues for religious and charitable organizations operating in Wyoming.
Wyoming does not require a religious or charitable organization to register with the state in order to solicit donations. Wyoming also does not impose requirements on the solicitation process, such as requiring disclosure when a charity works with a paid solicitor.
The Wyoming Nonprofit Corporation Act (the “Nonprofit Act”) is derived from the second version of the Uniform Nonprofit Corporation Act, published by the American Bar Association in 1987. (The ABA recommended changes to its Uniform Act in a third version published in 2008, but the Wyoming Legislature has not adopted these amendments.)
Wyoming has enacted, without change, the Uniform Act’s rule of construction for religious belief. “If religious doctrine governing the affairs of a religious corporation is inconsistent with the provisions of this Act on the same subject, the religious doctrine shall control to the extent required by the Constitution of the United States or the constitution of this state or both.” Wyo. Stat. § 17–19–180.
Religious entities and charities based in Wyoming will likely organize under the Wyoming Nonprofit Corporation Act.1 As of January 2021, the fee to file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation with the Wyoming Secretary of State is $25.2 Wyo. Stat. § 17–19–122. The law requires appointment of a registered agent if one would be required for other types of corporations. Wyo. Stat. § 17–19–501. Each year, Wyoming-incorporated nonprofit corporations must file an annual report, with a $25 fee, on or before the first day of the month in which the corporation originally registered.3 Wyo. Stat. § 17–19–1630.
Wyoming law does not require an out-of-state charity to register before soliciting contributions from Wyoming residents. The Nonprofit Act does, however, require a nonprofit corporation to register with the Secretary of State before “transacting business” in Wyoming. Wyo. Stat. § 17–19–1501. An attorney can provide specific advice about which actions may constitute “transacting business.” If a corporation has a registered agent in Wyoming, the corporation can complete the registration process online.
1 Wyoming law provides a second registration option for Churches and Religious Societies, first adopted before Wyoming statehood in 1890. Wyo. Stat. § 17–8–101, et seq. This statute provides less guidance than the Nonprofit Act, but it also directs that religious corporations “shall be subject to the laws of this state with respect to corporations which are applicable to them, save as herein expressly provided.” Wyo. Stat. § 17–8–107. A church or religious body should seek legal advice before electing registration pursuant to this separate statute.
2 The Wyoming Legislature is currently debating whether to raise this filing fee to $50, effective July 1, 2021.
3 This fee would rise to $50 under the same legislative proposal noted above.
Wyo. Stat. § 17–19–101, et seq.
Wyoming has no income tax.
Real property owned by religious organizations is tax-exempt if used “exclusively for religious worship, church schools, and church parsonages” or for “religious education camps” that are “exclusively for religious educational training, associated fellowship activities or worship” and not “used for private profit nor for commercial purposes.” Wyo. Stat. § 39–11–105(a)(vii).1 This exemption looks to property use, not just to the identity of the property owner.
The county assessor, not State officials, decides whether property is tax-exempt. That said, regulations from the Wyoming Department of Revenue caution that the term ‘exclusively’ in the religious property exemption “shall not be construed so narrowly and literally that it defeats the purpose of the exemption.” Rules of the Wyo. Dep’t of Revenue, Property Tax Div., Ch. 14, § 7(a). Non-religious use of property must be ‘minor,’ but the regulation further states that “the receipt of pay for temporary use of church property, when not needed or desired for religious services, is minor and will not affect the exemption.” Id. The exemption for religious property extends to surrounding land “reasonably necessary for convenient ingress and egress, light, air, or appropriate ornament.” Rules, Ch. 14, § 7(b).
Sales to religious or charitable organizations are exempt from state sales and use tax. Wyo. Stat. § 39–15–105(a)(iv)(B). In addition, “occasional sales” for fundraising purposes by these organizations are exempt so long as the sales are not “in the course of any regular business.” Wyo. Stat. § 39–15–105(a)(iv)(C). An accountant or attorney can provide specific guidance.
1 Wyoming law exempts real property of a charitable organization when it is “not for investment purposes” and is “used directly for the operation of the charity and which is directly beneficial to the people of this state.” Wyo. Stat. § 39–11–105(a)(xli). Real property of a secret and benevolent association is tax-exempt “to the extent that it is not used for private profit nor primarily for commercial purposes.” Wyo. Stat. § 39–11–105(a)(xxvi).
Wyoming Secretary of State:
Wyoming Department of Revenue:
John G. Knepper
(John G. Knepper began his career as a trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where he litigated and advised on constitutional challenges to federal programs. He returned to Wyoming in 2009, where he has represented local and state agencies on a wide variety of matters, including employment law, regulations, taxation, and challenges to the constitutionality of state programs. Mr. Knepper served as Chief Deputy Attorney General of Wyoming from 2013 until 2019. His clients include individuals, religious organizations, and governments. John is a fourth generation Wyoming native. He lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with his wife and six children.)
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