Charities > Questions


Frequently Asked Questions
 
Consumers
 

 

Charitable Organizations

Who must register?

What are the filing requirements for a charitable organization?

Who needs to file an Institution of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement?

Who is exempt from filing an Institution of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement?

If an organization is exempt from filing a Charitable Organization Registration Statement, is it also exempt from filing an Institution of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement?

If an organization is currently registered as a charitable organization with the Bureau, must it still file an Institution of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement?

How do you form a nonprofit organization?
 

How can I find out what an organization does with its money?

Under federal law, tax-exempt organizations have the duty of public accountability.  Upon demand  made in person or in writing , charitable organizations must provide copies of their tax-exempt application and their three most recent tax returns, called IRS Forms 990.  Except under unusual circumstances, walk-in requests are to be fulfilled immediately, and written requests within 30 days.  A reasonable fee for reproduction and mailing may be charged.  Alternatively, charitable organizations may avoid the photocopying requirement by posting their exemption application and IRS Forms 990 on the Internet. 

Additionally, the Bureau's "Related Sites" Web page contains a link to Guidestar , a searchable database of more than 640,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States.  Guidestar allows consumers to view and/or download copies of nonprofit organizations' IRS 990 Tax Returns.

How can I tell if an organization is registered with the Bureau?

PA law requires all registered charities to print the following notice on every printed solicitation or written confirmation: " The official registration and financial information of (organization) may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999.  Registration does not imply endorsement. "  However, this notice does not necessarily mean the organization is currently registered with the Bureau.  The organization may have been properly registered in the past, but may not be currently registered.  Additionally, if a solicitation does not have this notice, it does not necessarily mean the organization is not currently registered with the Bureau.  It could just be an inadvertent omission on the organization's part. In either instance, we encourage potential donors to contact the Bureau directly to verify whether or not an organization is currently registered. 

How do I know if my contribution is tax deductible?

Ask the organization directly if your contribution is tax deductible.  Under federal income tax laws, all or part of your charitable donation may be deductible, or it may not be deductible at all under certain circumstances.  Moreover, please note that if a group tells you it is "tax exempt," that does not mean your contribution is tax deductible.  Tax exempt simply means that organization does not have to pay federal income taxes.  You should contact your local IRS office or the organization directly if you are not sure about an organization's tax status or the tax deductibility of contributions.

When solicited by police or firefighter organizations, how do I find out if my contribution is benefiting local police or firefighter departments?

Ask the organization about its programs, and get the specifics about whom your contribution will benefit.  Will your donation go to local police or firefighter programs, or will it support a larger state or national organization?  How many police or firefighter members does the organization have?  Where do they come from?  If the organization is using a paid professional solicitor, how much of your contribution goes to the solicitor, and how much goes to the organization?

For additional information about an organization soliciting as a local or state police or firefighter organization, contact your local department directly or contact your local Better Business Bureau.  For information about national police or firefighter organizations, contact the Philanthropic Advisory Service, Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., 4200 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22203.

Can contributors to one organization limit their volume of solicitations from other organizations?

When you make a donation, include a note to the organization requesting that your name not be rented or sold to other organizations.

Why do I receive mail from so many nonprofit organizations?

If you have contributed to a charitable organization in the past, your name is likely placed on a "donor" list.  Your name is then exchanged or sold to other nonprofit organizations interested in sending their appeals to known donors, or to direct mail marketers. 

Can the U.S. Post Office do anything about commercial or nonprofit mailings?

The Post Office generally cannot help you remove your name from mailing lists, and they are required by federal law to deliver mail bearing proper postage.

How can I remove my name from mailing lists?

While there is no foolproof way of eliminating your name from all mailing lists due to advanced technology, there are steps you can take to cut down on the amount of charitable solicitations you receive.

You can write or telephone the organization directly and request that your name be removed from its mailing list.  Please note that you cannot simply return the mailing you received with a written note, such as "please do not send future solicitations," because most charities use nonprofit postal rates that cover one-way delivery only.  Therefore, you must add additional postage or the letter will not be returned to the charity, and your name will not be removed from the charity's mailing list.

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Who must register?

The PA Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act, 10 P. S. § 162.1 et seq., requires organizations soliciting charitable contributions in Pennsylvania to register with the Bureau unless they are excluded or exempted from the Act.  For additional information on excluded or exempt organizations in Pennsylvania, please refer to the Bureau's Exclusions and Exemptions Chart.

What are the filing requirements for a charitable organization?

If a charitable organization is not exempt or excluded, it must file a registration statement; a copy of its IRS Form 990 and Schedule A or the Bureau's Form BCO-23; and compiled, reviewed, or audited financial statements within 30 days of receiving in excess of $25,000 in gross nation contributions OR prior to compensating someone to solicit contributions from Pennsylvania residents.  Extensions for initial registrants will be granted for financial information only as long as a properly completed registration statement, fees, and additional filings have been submitted.  Initial registrants must also file a copy of its IRS determination letter and organizational documents, such as charter, articles of incorporation, and by-laws.  Please view the Bureau's registration packet for additional information.

Who needs to file an Institution of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement?

According to the Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act, 10 P. S. § 371 et seq., a nonprofit organization physically located in Pennsylvania receiving or claiming exemption from Pennsylvania property or sales taxes is required to file an annual report and a copy of its IRS 990 Return with the Department of State's Bureau of Charitable Organizations within 135 days after the close of its fiscal year unless it has been granted an extension. For additional information, please go to the Bureau's Web page on the Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act.  

Who is exempt from filing an Institution of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement?

The only two exemptions from the Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act are:  1) Bona fide, duly constituted religious institutions and such separate groups or corporations that form an integral part of a religious institution and are exempt from filing an annual IRS 990 Return, and 2) an institution of purely public charity that receives contributions of less than $25,000 per year provided that the institution's program service revenue does not equal or exceed $5,000,000.

If an organization is exempt from filing a Charitable Organization Registration Statement, is it also exempt from filing an Institution of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement?

No.  If an organization is exempt from the registration requirements under The Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act, 10 P. S. § 162.1 et seq. which includes filing a form BCO-10 Charitable Organization Registration Statement, it is still required to file an Institutions of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement required annually by the Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act, 10 P. S. § 371 et seq., unless it meets one of the two exemptions listed directly above.

If an organization is currently registered as a charitable organization with the Bureau, must it still file an Institution of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement?

No.  Organizations registered with the Bureau are required to file a BCO-10 Registration Statement and a copy of their IRS Form 990.  Since this information is already on file with the Bureau, registered organizations do not have to file the Institutions of Purely Public Charity Registration Statement. 

How do you form a nonprofit organization?

For information regarding how to apply for and obtain a tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other requirements for tax-exempt organizations, you can visit the IRS’s Web site for Tax-Exempt Organizations or you can reach the tax-exempt division of the IRS toll-free at: 877-829-5500. You may also request the necessary forms by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). 

To form a nonprofit in Pennsylvania, you must file the necessary forms with the PA Corporation Bureau. If you are forming a nonprofit corporation, you need to file Articles of Incorporation and a docketing statement. However, if you do not want to incorporate but want to act as a nonprofit, you must file an Application for Registration of an Unincorporated Association Name. For additional information about incorporating as a nonprofit in Pennsylvania, please visit the PA Corporation Bureau's Web site on Filing Requirements for Pennsylvania Nonprofit Corporations and to download the necessary forms online. The Corporation Bureau can also be reached by telephone at: 717-787-1057.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations has a resource page for newly forming organizations (PANO's Tips on How to Become a Nonprofit Organization in Pennsylvania) that includes a checklist of things to do.

 
 
 
 
General Information and Questions

Citizens who have questions or need information concerning solicitations by charitable organizations, solicitors, or fundraising counsels are urged to contact the Bureau: (Please include a telephone number in your correspondence to the Bureau)

Send us an E-mail
 
By Phone
1-800-732-0999 (within PA)
717-783-1720 (outside PA)
or
 
In Writing
Bureau of Charitable Organizations
207 North Office Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
 
 
 
 


Modified Date: 10/01/2013 03:07 PM