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Register and License a Non-Profit Organization

To successfully establish a new nonprofit organization, many factors must be considered. What is its mission? What type of organizational structure and classification will best suit its purpose? What are the steps to develop an effective strategic plan? Where will the organization find funding? What licenses, permits, and registrations does the District government require?

Step One - Preliminary

Before you come in to get a license, a lot of work needs to be done upfront. We've outlined some key decisions in the following steps you need to make before coming in to register your organization and get a Basic Business License.  Please refer to the following comprehensive resource about nonprofit startup - How To start Non Profit Resource from US Small Business Administration

Step Two - Incorporation/Business Registration

If you have already established your mission statement, developed bylaws and created a strategic plan among other actions outlined above, then you're ready to register your new non-profit organization.

  • If you want to create a new non-profit corporation in the District of Columbia then you'll need to file an Articles of Incorporation form DNP-1 to become registered.
  • For more information about domestic nonprofit corporation registration, please, refer to this link - Domestic Nonprofit Corporation
  • If you have already incorporated as a non-profit corporation outside the District of Columbia but wish to conduct business in the District, then you'll need to file for a Foreign Registration Statement FN-1 to become registered.
  • For more information about registering foreign nonprofit corporations, please, refer to this link – Register Foreign Filing Entity

Step Three - Tax Compliance

While you may already be registered as a non-profit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and if you're not you'll need to do this first, to do business in the District of Columbia you'll also need to register with District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR).

  • First, you'll need to file the FR 500 which is available at the OTR website and is the general tax registration form.
  • Second, you'll need to file the FR 164 which is also available at the OTR website and allows you to become a tax-exempt entity in the District.

Step Four - Zoning Compliance

If you are physically located in the District of Columbia, you will also need to be sure your location is in compliance with the District of Columbia zoning laws. Depending on the type of organization you are, you may need to amend your location's Certificate of Occupancy or obtain a Home Occupation Permit if you're operating out of your home.

Step Five - Business License

Once you have completed the above steps, you may need to obtain a Basic Business License (BBL) for the Charitable Solicitation. In some rare cases, the General Business category is required, while in others, no licensure is required.  To determine which category of licensure is applicable to your Non-Profit Organization, it is imperative that you contact the Business Licensing Division at (202) 442-4311.

About the Unified Registration Statement

Many customers have asked about using the Unified Registration Statement (URS). We do accept the URS, however you will still need to apply for a Charitable Solicitation BBL if you directly or indirectly solicit for any contribution in the District of Columbia.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us immediately.


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