Starting Your Nonprofit
Non-profits in Vermont are also called public benefit corporations, and they can obtain 501(c)(3) status. When starting a non-profit in Vermont, there are a number of factors to consider.
Creating a Mission Statement
You're creating a non-profit because you want to give back to your community, but you must still meet certain requirements to protect yourself and to ensure that you're meeting your organization's goals. When you create a mission statement, you can explain your organization's purpose. Consider what problem or issue your organization wants to address, then focus your statement on the efforts and values that will guide your non-profit to meeting its goals.
Considerations for Starting a Nonprofit
- Incorporation protects your personal assets from lawsuits and creditor claims. It also protects your trustees, officers and volunteers.
- Vermont non-profits are usually exempt from federal tax on any income that's related to the organization's exempt purposes.
- You can file for an exemption from Vermont's sales and use tax.
- Most non-profits are exempt from property taxes.
- Your non-profit may qualify to receive public and private grant money.
- Because your non-profit isn't owned by you or your shareholders, you won't have individual control and autonomy over your organization.
- More paperwork is involved, such as creating bylaws and recording and maintaining corporate minutes.
- You'll need time and money to apply for the federal tax exemption, and you'll need an accountant or legal professional to help you operate your non-profit.
- Your non-profit's finances are open to public inspection.
Requirements and Mandatory Forms for Creating a Nonprofit
- Articles of Incorporation, filed with the Vermont Secretary of State, Corporations Division. Your Articles must include a required purposes clause and a dissolution of assets provision.
- Name reservation request form
- Incorporator's statement
- Registered agent
- IRS Form 1023: Application for Recognition of Exemption
- Form SS-4: Application for employer identification number
- IRS determination letter
- Form S-1: Vermont application for business tax account for sales and use tax exemption
- Registration of paid fundraisers and solicitors with the Vermont Attorney General
- IRS Form 990: Annual Information Return
How to Retain Your Nonprofit Status
After forming your Vermont not for profit organization, be sure to follow specific guidelines to retain your non-profit status.
- Keep detailed records of all sources of income.
- File annual reports.
- Keep unrelated activities separate from your non-profit and pay separate taxes on them. Unrelated activities could jeopardize your nonprofit status if they make up a substantial portion of your business.
- Ensure that the time and resources spent on your non-profit are related to your organization's exempt status.
- Maintain detailed records of corporate meetings.
- Make sure that if and when your non-profit dissolves, its assets are distributed to another tax-exempt group.
- Don't make loans to any of your directors or officers.
- Don't issue shares of stock or pay dividends or other shares of income to members, directors or officers.
- File a Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax form with the IRS each year, if it's required based on your annual gross receipts.
What it Costs to Form a Vermont Nonprofit
- Vermont's Secretary of State, Corporations Division charges a $75 filing fee for non-profit Articles of Incorporation.
- The application fee to reserve a name is $20.
- Vermont charges a biennial report fee of $15.
- The IRS charges a $400 application fee to organizations that expect to earn less than $10,000 in total income over a four-year period. This fee increases to $850 for organizations that expect gross receipts exceeding $10,000 annually over a four-year period.
Applying for Grants and Loans
Grants can be used for general purposes, or to help your organization meet its operating expenses. If a grant is awarded for a specific project, you should take steps to restrict the funds to that project.
Vermont & National Nonprofit Resources
Fundsnet Services: This site offers a list of available Vermont community investment programs from banks and private funders.
The Vermont Community Foundation lists available grants and provides services to non-profits.
USA.gov. offers information and services about grants, loans, management, tax information and funding directories for all states.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.