Frequently Asked Questions about Charitable Organizations

Q: What are the AGO filing requirements for a charitable organization?

A: Any charitable organization organized, operating, or raising funds in Massachusetts must register with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division by filing a copy of its articles of organization or other governing instrument, its by-laws, and a list of the board of directors.

After it completes its first year of activity, the organization must file annually the "Form PC" along with the appropriate IRS Form 990, the correct filing fee based on its annual revenue, and any required audit or review. Annual filings are due four and one-half months after the conclusion of the charity's fiscal year.

(See Professional Solicitor or Fundraiser and the "Instructions for Form PC" on the Forms & Instructions page for more detailed information on these requirements.)

If the organization intends to solicit funds from the public, it must first obtain a "Certificate for Solicitation" from the Division, unless exempted from this requirement by statute (see Overview of Solicitation ).

Other Massachusetts state agencies and federal agencies such as the IRS may require other filings from charitable organizations.

Q: Are any charitable organizations exempt from the filing requirements?

A: The two categories of charitable organizations exempted by statute from registering and filing with the Division are:

  1. religious organizations; and
  2. the Red Cross and certain veterans organizations listed in M.G.L. c. 12, s. 8E.

Q: Do police and fire groups have to register with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division?

A: Fraternal groups, such as police and fire associations/unions, are generally not considered public charities and thus do not have to register and file annually with the Division, with the following important exception: if a fundraising appeal by a police or fire group states that a charitable purpose (for example: scholarship fund, or assistance to the police or fire department) will benefit in any way by the donations, then the group must register and file.

If the police/fire association in question has not registered before, a "Short Form PC," the group's articles of organization (or other statement of purpose), a list of the current board of directors, and a filing fee of $50 must be sent to the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division. If the organization is registered, but is not up-to-date in its annual filings with the Division, then it must file the most recent four years' "Form PC" filings. Remember, the solicitation of charitable funds cannot begin until a "Certificate for Solicitation" has been issued to the organization by the Division.

Q: When is the annual "Form PC" filing due?

A: It must be submitted to the Division within four and one-half months of the conclusion of the charity's fiscal year.

Q: How can I obtain a blank " Form PC ?"

A: You can download a blank "Form PC" from our website at Forms & Instructions. The Attorney General's Office now mails blank forms only upon specific request. If you wish to request a blank form to be mailed, contact the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division at (617) 727-2200, ext. 2101.

Q: How do I get an extension for my annual " Form PC" filing?

A: Generally, the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division accepts extensions which have been granted for federal filings by the IRS. IRS extension letters, therefore, constitute a request for an extension from this Division and a copy can be submitted to us. If your organization does not request a federal extension from the IRS, an extension from this Division may be requested in a letter stating the reason for the request or by email.

Requesting a Filing Extension by Email: Organizations registered with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division may now use email to request an extension of time to file their annual report (Form PC). Similar to IRS filing guidelines, an organization may request up to two 3-month extensions. We encourage those organizations that would like to request an extension to email: CharitiesExtensions@state.ma.us.

All extension requests must include the name of the organization, the 6-digit Attorney General number and the Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) in the subject line of the email. If you do not know your 6-digit AG number, please visit the Public Charities Annual Filings section of this website and search for your organization by name. The AG number will be listed in the search results.

Sample email subject:
RE: (organization name), AG# 000000, FEIN 00-0000000

The organization may attach a copy of the IRS Form 8868 (Application for Extension of Time to File an Exempt Organization Return) to the email. As an alternative, the body of the email should briefly outline the need for additional time to file the Form PC. A separate email must be submitted for each organization.

Please note that a request for an extension of time to file the Form PC will be denied for organizations that are out of compliance with the annual reporting requirements of the Division. You will receive notification only if the extension is denied.

Extension requests will continue to be accepted via postal mail, but electronic submission is strongly encouraged.

Please note: if the organization is not up-to-date in its prior annual "Form PC" filings or is otherwise out of compliance with Massachusetts reporting requirements, an extension will not be granted. Extensions will also not be granted if they are requested after the current due date of the filing.

If your extension is granted, it will be for a period of 90 days and you will not hear from the Division in response. You will hear from us only if it is denied.

Q: My organization does not solicit funds. Do I still have to file a " Form PC ?"

A: Yes, if the organization is a public charity and is required to register with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division, it is also required to file the "Form PC" annually. [Note: If the organization does not intend to solicit funds it should answer Question 14 "no" and it will not need to complete the Schedule A-2 portion of "Form PC." It will not receive a "Certificate for Solicitation."]

Q: How do I learn my Attorney General's account number?

A: The Division issues a separate account number for each charity upon receipt of its initial registration materials. The account number will be printed at the top of the "Welcome Letter" you will receive from this office when you first register. You can also obtain this number by calling us at (617) 727-2200, ext. 2101.

Q: Are the annual filings submitted by charities public records? How can the public view them? Can I make copies?

A: Yes, annual filings are available online at www.mass.gov/ago/charitiesreports. Copies of annual filings may also be obtained by submitting a request to the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division by (i) mail at One Ashburton Place, 18th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts, 02108, (ii) email at charities@state.ma.us, or (iii) phone at (617) 727-2200, est. 2101. Please note, however, that persons requesting copies from the Division will be required to pay a fee of $0.25 per page so members of the public are strongly encouraged to use online access.

Q: Are we required to file audited or reviewed financial statements with our " Form PC ?"

A: If your organization has total gross revenue of at least $200,000* but less than $500,000 for a given fiscal year, it must file either audited or reviewed financial statements for that year. If the organization has gross revenue of $500,000 or more, only audited financial statements are acceptable. All audited financial statements submitted to the Division must be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Reviewed financial statements may be prepared according to GAAP or any other comprehensive basis of accounting. (See Audits and Reviews.)

*Effective for fiscal years ending on or after 1/1/2008. For fiscal years ending on or before 12/31/07, a Reviewed Financial Statement must be submitted at the $100,000 threshold.

Q: Who has to do the audit or review?

A: An independent certified public accountant. (See Audits and Reviews.)

Q: How do I set up a nonprofit corporation in Massachusetts?

A: Incorporation papers must be filed with the Corporations Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, on the 17th Floor of One Ashburton Place, in Boston. You may contact the Corporations Division at (617) 727-9640 for inquiries regarding incorporation under Chapter 180.

Please note that nonprofit charitable corporations, once formed, are subject to numerous legal requirements and may only go out of business through a formal dissolution process that includes obtaining the assent of the Attorney General and the approval of the Supreme Judicial Court.

The Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division recommends that groups wishing to form nonprofit charitable corporations:

  • learn about the legal obligations of individuals forming or ties by consulting an attorney prior to incorporation; and
  • consider carefully whether the charitable purposes they have in mind could be satisfactorily addressed by any existing charity or charities.

Q: Does an organization have to be incorporated in order to register with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division?

A: No.

Q: Where can I obtain certificates of existence, good standing, or condition?

A: From the Corporations Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Q: How does an organization apply for federal or state tax exemption?

A: See the IRS website for tax-exempt organizations. Once you have received a determination of federal tax exempt status in a letter from the IRS, contact the Massachusetts Department of Revenue at (617) 887-6367 to inquire about obtaining exemption from certain state taxes.

Q: What is required for an out-of-state (foreign) corporation to begin doing charitable business or solicitation in Massachusetts?

A: Pursuant to M.G.L. c.156D, a foreign corporation must register with the Corporations Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth within 10 days of commencing business in Massachusetts.

Registration with the Corporations Division entails filing a certificate of legal existence or good-standing issued by the Secretary of State of the state in which the organization was incorporated, along with a minimum filing fee of $250.

In addition to filing with the Secretary of the Commonwealth, a charitable organization from another state is required by M.G.L. c.12, s. 8E to register with the Office of the Attorney General prior to engaging in charitable work or raising funds in Massachusetts.

The out-of-state charitable corporation registers with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division by submitting copies of its articles of organization, by-laws, list of board of directors, and its federal tax exemption determination letter, if any. The charitable corporation must comply fully with the other registration and filing requirements established under M.G.L. c. 12 and M.G.L. c 68 for all charitable organizations doing business in Massachusetts.

Q: Is an out-of-state (foreign) charitable corporation required to file "Form PC" for fiscal years elapsed prior to commencing business in Massachusetts?

A: No. Unless specifically instructed otherwise by the Division, a foreign charitable corporation files its first "Form PC" for its first fiscal year of business in the Commonwealth.

Q: If an out-of-state (foreign) charitable corporation stops doing business in Massachusetts, when can it stop filing " Form PC" with the Division?

A: When the charity stops doing business in Massachusetts, it should notify the Division in writing of its date of withdrawal. The charity will have to file a final "Form PC" to account for activity through that withdrawal date. If the charity wishes to begin soliciting funds or engaging in charitable work in the Commonwealth at any point in the future, it should contact the Division first to discuss re-activation procedures.