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California Nonprofit Document Requirements


California is the state with the second most rigorous regulation, making it difficult to keep your California nonprofit status. But it also has so many people and so much wealth that there are a lot of people nearby who could use your help. What’s more, it’s easier to connect with donors.

If you need help running and growing your California nonprofit, BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions is here to help! We’ll guide you through the process and help you understand all of the California nonprofit requirements.

California State Registration Documents



Articles of Incorporation

Business Entity Search



Average Processing Time

15-20 Business Days

Electronic Filing?


Charity Registration

State Requirement?


Charity Registration Search



Renewal Requirement?


990 EZ Requirement?


Annual Report

State Requirement?



Within 90 days of incorporating with the state; (then) Annually (Every Year) Last day of the anniversary month.



Other Exemptions

State Income Tax

Must file – no fee for 3500a

Sales Tax Exemption

Not exempt

Tax Returns

All organizations (except those classified as churches) are required to file an annual 990 form (990N, 990EZ, 990, or 990PF) to be exempt from Income Tax.

The 990 return is due on the 15th day of the 5th month after the end of the organization’s fiscal year.

Failure to file for 3 consecutive years could cause your organization to lose tax-exempt status.

California Nonprofit Articles Of Incorporation

Starting a California nonprofit is not that much harder than any other state. All you need to file with the state is:

  • A unique name that is not deceptively similar to another business on record
  • A statement of purpose: preferably a broad one to allow your organization to evolve and grow without having to contact the state and make changes
  • Choose a California nonprofit corporation structure between:
    • Religious
    • Public benefit
    • Mutual benefit
    • Mutual benefit common interest development
  • The agent for service of process: a business or person with a California address who can receive legal notices and official correspondence for the nonprofit
  • Limitations on your operations that will keep you in line for tax-exempt status
  • The organization’s address
  • Dedication and dissolution clauses

There is a boilerplate template on the California Secretary of State’s website that you can use to draft your California nonprofit articles of incorporation, but keep in mind it doesn’t include any of the specific language you will need if you intend to apply for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status with the IRS.

California Nonprofit Requirements For Tax Exemption

Once you have filed for your 501(c) tax exemption and received your federal determination letter, you can file for California tax exemption using a form and a copy of your IRS letter.

Technically, you don’t have to have your official 501(c) status to get tax exemption in California, but the form to get tax exemption without a federal determination letter is much more complex.

California Nonprofit Status

Along with your federal form 990, you’ll have to file a report with the state of California to keep your organization compliant. The initial report is due within 90 days of the date of incorporation and should be filed annually after that.

Easily navigate California’s nonprofit requirements with BryteBridge Nonprofit Solutions on your side. We’re experts in the field, having helped over 30,000 people nationwide.

Give us a call today and find out how we can best help you help others!