Starting a nonprofit in Massachusetts

Here are some of the things you have to do to get your organization up and running in Massachusetts. Of course, the ethic of Cathy Keeps Books is that if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing in full compliance with GAAP, tax laws, and all other state, federal, and municipal regulation. So don’t take my word for it: do your own research and make sure you’ve crossed all your Ts and anything else you might need to cross. Many a hapless nonprofit has foundered on the shores of not having the paperwork it suddenly realized was required. At least, so Cathy Keeps Books believes.

1. Register with the Secretary of the Commonwealth

As a brand-new nonprofit, you must incorporate in Massachusetts. The cost is $40, I think. If the organization is already incorporated elsewhere, you may either register as a foreign corporation ($400) or dissolve the original incorporation and form anew in Massachusetts. Either way, this is where you’ll send your Annual Report.

2. Register with the Attorney General’s Office

All nonprofits organized, operating, or soliciting funds in Commonwealth must register with the Division of Public Charities in the AGO. The AGO will give you an AG number and eventually—once you’ve filed your Form PC—a Certificate of Solicitation. The Division’s phone number is 617-727-2200, extension 2101.

3. For payroll: Register with the Mass Department of Revenue

These people collect your payroll taxes, so you have to be registered with them to pay any employees. They’ll give you a state ID number that your payroll processor will want from you. You can register online; choose “withholding tax” as the account type. You’ll also need the SSNs and addresses of your officers.

4. Also for payroll: Register with the Mass Department of Unemployment Assistance

State unemployment insurance is liable to cause you problems if you don’t get right with the DUA from the start. The department issues its own ID number (called Employer Account Numbers or EANs), which you must have so that your payroll service can collect and remit unemployment taxes. You’ll also have to register your payroll company as a third-party administrator (TPA) authorized to handle SUI on your behalf. The DUA’s phone number is 617-626-5075 for employers.

5. And don’t forget: You’ll also neeed a whole slew of other stuff to start a nonprofit. Most of it lies outside our purview, but insurance is a must.