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How to Form a Nonprofit in California

    • 1). Choose a business name or nonprofit that is not being used by anyone else. You can check for available business names by visiting the California Secretary of State website. You may be able to reserve the name for a fee.

    • 2). Also run a trademark search in order to verify that the name you have chosen won't infringe on any trademark-holders nationwide.

    • 3). Choose the "Forms" selection from the California Secretary of State website and open the PDF form to file your Articles of Incorporation for a nonprofit. Refer to the Office of the Attorney General or the Guide to the Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004 which is available for download from the Attorney General site to make sure your statements of intention in the Articles of Corporation comply with the state's nonprofit laws.

    • 4). After you have received notification from the California Secretary of State that your Articles of Incorporation have been filed, you can submit an application for Federal 501(c)(3) Tax Exemption to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS Package 1023 is the name of the form needed to apply, and a copy of the Articles of Incorporation should to be included in this package. You can download all of the mentioned forms from the IRS website.

      At this point your nonprofit may also apply for tax-exempt status in California by mailing an Exemption Application (FTB Form 3500), along with an endorsed copy of the Articles of Incorporation and all other required supporting documentation, to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB). The Form 3500 can be downloaded from the FTB website.

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