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Every charitable corporation, unincorporated association, charitable trustee and other legal entities holding property for charitable purposes, must file with the Attorney General an initial registration form and other documents required by law. Under Government Code section 12585, initial registration must be filed within 30 days of first receiving charitable assets. Assets include public donations, property, government grants, noncash donations, and/or any contribution of value. NOTE: after the initial registration, there are also annual registration renewal and reporting requirements.
Initial registration and annual renewal reporting also apply to all foreign charitable organizations (i.e., corporations formed under the laws of other states) doing business or holding property in California for charitable purposes. Doing business in California includes, active solicitation, such as soliciting donations in California by mail, by advertisements in publications, or by any other means of targeting California residents for donations. Other examples of doing business in California include engaging in any of the following activities: holding meetings of the board of directors or corporate members in California, maintaining an office in California, having officers or employees who perform work in California, and/or conducting charitable programs in California.
The Registry of Charitable Trusts Registration Program
The objective of the Registration Program is to review materials to determine which nonprofit organizations are required to register and report annually, and which organizations are exempt from registration and reporting requirements. Please also note that the charitable organization and trustees have an obligation to keep the Registry of Charitable Trusts informed of the organization's current address.
Initial Registration Submission Requirements
- Form CT-1
- $25 initial registration fee (payable to Department of Justice)
- Charitable Organization's Founding Documents
- Founding documents would include Articles of Incorporation, Articles of Organization, Articles of Association, Trust Agreement, and/or Bylaws.
- If incorporated, please make sure to submit endorsed/certified original Articles of Incorporation and any endorsed amended articles stamped by the state in which domiciled.
- A copy of the most Current Bylaws.
- IRS determination letter (if received from the IRS) If the determination letter has not yet been received, please provide the entity's FEIN. If unavailable, a copy can be requested from the IRS at irs.gov.
- A copy of the Application for Recognition of Exemption (IRS Form 1023, 1023-EZ, or 1024), if submitted. If unavailable, a copy can be requested from the IRS at irs.gov.
Initial Registration Webinar
The Attorney General’s Office hosted a webinar to provide information on when an organization must register. It covers the steps to register, filing requirements, and how to check an organization’s status on our website. Below you will find the video of that webinar. The video is also available on the California Department of Justice's YouTube Channel.
Registration Form & Guide
- Form CT-1
Initial Registration Form
This form is required from all charities that are registering with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts for the first time.
- Initial Registration Guide
General Guide for Initial Registration
This is a guide for charities that are completing initial registration with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts
Laws & Regulations
- Government Code sections 12585-12586.1, 12591.1, 12593, 12596-12598
- California Code of Regulations, Title 11, section 300, 302-304, 313-316
Frequently Asked Questions
Every charitable corporation, unincorporated association, and trustee doing business in or holding property in California is required to register with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts within 30 days of receiving charitable assets. NOTE: Assets include public donations, property, government grants, noncash donations, and/or contributions of value. For more information, please see our Guide for Charities page that includes the Attorney General's Guide for Charities. See also Government Code sections 12581, 12583, 12585 and 12586.
For unincorporated entities, bylaws, articles of association or articles of organization are required. The founding document should be signed and dated by the founders and contain organizational information such as, but not limited to: the charitable purpose and what will happen to the entity's assets should it dissolve.
Charities operating in California are required to report to many different government agencies, including the Secretary of State, the Franchise Tax Board and the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts. The Attorney General has primary supervisory jurisdiction over charitable organizations to assure that their assets are used for charitable purposes. The Supervision of Trustees and Fundraisers for Charitable Purposes Act (Government Code sections 12580 - 12599.8) requires charitable organizations to register and file annual reports with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts.
The registration and reporting requirements under the Supervision of Trustees and Fundraisers for Charitable Purposes Act apply to persons and entities that solicit, conduct business, or hold charitable assets in or from California. This includes foreign corporations, trustees, and fundraising professionals.
As is the case for any charitable organization or trustee, the foreign entity is required to file the Registry's Initial Registration Form (Form CT-1) within 30 days of first receiving property (i.e., a cash donation, property donation, or other assets with financial value received for charitable purposes) as a result of doing business in California. In addition, the foreign entity should provide a copy of its tax exemption application, IRS Form 1023 or Form 1023-EZ, (if submitted to the IRS), a copy of its IRS determination letter (if received from the IRS), and copies of its founding records. For more information, see the Attorney General's Guide for Charities and Government Code sections 12580-12599.8.
Our processing time is approximately 90 days from the date of receipt, provided that the submission is complete. If the submission is incomplete, our office will mail the organization a Notice to Register stating what additional information is needed for the initial registration to be approved.
Please note, organizations can review their registration status on the Attorney General's website using the Registry Verification Search tool.
The two most common reasons for receiving a Notice to Register are: (1) your tax preparer's software directed the preparer to submit a copy of your IRS Form 990 or an Annual Registration Renewal Fee Report (Form RRF-1) to this office, and then we determined that the entity is required to register and report to this office; or (2) a member of the general public made an inquiry concerning a solicitation from your organization.
When the Registry of Charitable Trusts receives a Form RRF-1 before an organization is registered, the Registry returns it to the organization with a Notice to Register. Your organization needs to complete the initial registration process first before we can process the Form RRF-1, a renewal registration form. Once your organization completes the initial registration form (CT-1), submits the required founding documents, and pays the initial registration fees, the Registry will assign your organization a State Charity Registration Number.
Contact the accountant or attorney who assisted your organization. You may also be able to obtain records from the California Secretary of State and the Internal Revenue Service. If your organization was incorporated in California, you can obtain a certified copy of the founding documents from the Secretary of State at businesssearch.sos.ca.gov.
If you anticipate a delay in obtaining missing documents from other government agencies, please notify the Initial Registration Program and provide the organization's name, applicant number, and organization number (if applicable). You may use the Contact the Initial Registration Program form or leave a voicemail at (916) 210-6400, extension 4. This is a voicemail-only system, with a turn-around time of two working days to respond to your request for assistance.
Our office reviews Registration Exemption Requests on a case by case basis. Entities organized primarily as a hospital, educational institution, or religious organization are exempt from the registration and annual reporting requirements. Some nonprofit Mutual Benefit organizations may be required to register, if it is determined that they hold assets for charitable purposes.
If an organization would like a review from the Registry staff to determine if it is exempt from registration, please submit a letter requesting exemption, a copy of the organization's founding document(s), and IRS determination letter for review.
Depending on the date (month/day/year) the organization first received assets (funds, property, etc.) in/from California as reported on the Form CT-1, the organization may be required to pay past due annual renewal fees.
The consequences for failing to register may lead to penalties, administrative or legal action, and the loss of tax exemption status with the Franchise Tax Board. So it is important for your organization to fully comply with the registration requirements.