How to Simplify All of Your Church's Filing Requirements

Written by Raul Rivera on Dec 19, 2017 in Church Management

Early one morning, Pastor Ronnie was sitting at his desk making a “to-do” list of everything he needed to complete on behalf of the church before the end of the year. 

He was also beginning to plan for tasks that his church would need to address during the new year.

Pastor Ronnie thought he had everything in order. 

When his church started a few years ago, he was actively involved in his church’s StartRIGHT process. And although this year was perhaps one of his busiest ever, he was confident that he had not forgotten anything for the church.

As he was leaving to meet a pastor friend for lunch, Pastor Ronnie stopped to pick up the church mail and was surprised to see a notice from the Florida Division of Corporations.

“How could I have missed something so simple?”

When Pastor Ronnie arrived at the restaurant, his friend could tell that something was not quite right. When he inquired, Pastor Ronnie told him about the notice he received in the mail.

Pastor Ronnie informed his friend that the notice stated his church was in an “inactive status” for not submitting an annual filing with the state

Pastor Ronnie wondered, “How could I have missed something as simple as the state annual filing?” 

He was fully aware of this requirement, but with everything else he had going on at the church, it just slipped his mind.

In an attempt to be encouraging, Pastor Ronnie’s friend assured him that there was plenty of time for him to get this figured out. Then his friend asked a question, which threw Pastor Ronnie for a loop. 

His friend stated, “I am not trying to make you feel worse, but did you also forget your church’s annual filing with the IRS?”

Pastor Ronnie cocked his head, a bit confused by the question. 

He knew his friend was referring to the Form 990 filing with the IRS, but he had been told that churches are exempt from that particular requirement.

As he sat there, Pastor Ronnie thought to himself, “Does my church really need to file a Form 990 with the IRS?”

Don't Miss Another 990 Filing!

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Not as uncommon as you may think

Pastor Ronnie’s story is not as uncommon as you may think. 

When a pastor starts a new church he/she is often the one who handles everything for the church. As the church grows, the pastor’s responsibilities increase, and his/her schedule gets busier. 

This usually leads to some things being placed on the proverbial “back burner.” 

In Pastor Ronnie’s story, there are two important filings to know: 

  1. an annual state filing (referred to as an annual report); and 
  2. an annual federal filing known as Form 990.

For the purposes of this article, we will concentrate on the requirements of the state annual report, but here is what you need to know about the Form 990:

  • Churches are exempt from having to file Form 990 with the IRS.
  • All other nonprofits must file Form 990 with the IRS on a yearly basis.

(Recommended reading: “Revoked for One Missed Form”)

Does your state require an annual report filing?

Currently, there are 44 states that require some variation of an annual report. 

The requirements of the annual report for each state differ. For example, in Florida an annual report needs to be filed every year by May 1st, but in California, the report is due every two years before the last day of the corporation’s anniversary month. 

It is important that you check with your state to verify if an annual report, or some variation of an annual report, is required. And if you are unsure whether your state has an annual report requirement, give us a call, and we will be glad to help you figure it out.

Though some states may not require an annual report filing, they may have additional requirements, such as a charity registration filing or a business registration (i.e. Washington and New Jersey).

(Recommended reading: "Does a Church Need to be 501(c)(3) Approved?")

What if I did not file my state’s annual report?

Some states, such as Georgia, will allow you to file the report past the due date, but a late fee will often be imposed.

If your state requires an annual report, then usually a reminder is sent to you of when your annual report is due. If you do not file the annual report within a certain period of time, then your state will most likely “administratively dissolve” your church or ministry corporation.

This is not a good thing, and you should correct it immediately.

How do I know if my church needs to file?

Follow these steps to determine if your church is required to file an annual report in your state.

  1. Check with the secretary of state’s office in your location to see if an annual report is required.
  2. If yes, then determine when it is due and what is required of you to complete the annual report.
  3. Give us a call at 877-494-4655 to help you with steps 1 and 2, and consider utilizing our KeepRIGHT Program!

One easy solution for your ministry

The KeepRIGHT Program is designed to help your church or ministry maintain a solid legal foundation. It is a recurring service that helps you and your church stay on top of the following:

  • State annual reports, 
  • Form 990 filings (remember churches are exempt),
  • Charity registration filing,
  • Business registration filing,
  • Annual board meeting minutes,
  • Updated organizational documents,
  • Annual compensation agreement renewals,
  • Individual tax returns for ministers, and
  • Much more!

If you want to know more about our KeepRIGHT Program, call us today at 877-494-4655. Or if you want to learn more about how to keep your ministry in order in 2018, join us at one of our conferences in a city near you.

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

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