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South Carolina Nonprofits: A How-To Guide

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The name of your organization cannot be misleading and must be distinguishable from names of other organizations in South Carolina.


One or more persons may act as incorporator of your South Carolina nonprofit. There are no requirements in South Carolina concerning the number of directors for your nonprofit. Assemble a dedicated and motivated team.


Bylaws will need to be drafted for your SC nonprofit. These will set forth how officers are elected and dictate how your nonprofit is to be organized and run.


Fill out and file Articles of Incorporation with the South Carolina Secretary of State office. There is a $25 filing fee. If your organization is a political association, then you will also need to fill out Form CL-1 (this is your initial report) and an additional $25 fee. If you plan on obtaining federal tax-exempt status from the IRS you will have to include the required language in the purpose clause of your Articles of Incorporation. South Carolina makes this easy for you by furnishing a 501c3 Attachment. Include a self-address, stamped return envelope.


Hold your nonprofit‘s initial organizational meeting. Adopt bylaws and elect officers and directors.


Your nonprofit is not required to file a South Carolina annual report with the secretary of state. You will, however, need to file with the South Carolina Department of Revenue by filing form SC 990-T annually. You will also need to file an annual registration Statement for a Charitable Organization and check the “renewal” box when doing so.


Apply for 501c3 tax-exempt status with the IRS. This can be quite a daunting project. If you prevail, you will receive a Letter of Determination from them stating your tax-exempt status. This will help you obtain further South Carolina tax-exemptions. Also obtain an EIN (tax ID number) from the IRS.


If you are planning on soliciting contributions in South Carolina, you will need to register as a charitable organization before doing so. Do this by filing a Registration Statement for a Charitable Organization. Send this form as well as the $50 filing fee.

How much does it cost to start a nonprofit in SC?

There is a $25 filing fee for your nonprofit Articles of Incorporation.

How long does it take South Carolina to process my Articles?

It will take them between 7-10 days to process your filing.

Are nonprofit corporation in SC automatically tax-exempt?

No. For federal tax exemption (501c), follow the application process required by the IRS. Then you can apply for South Carolina tax exemption.

Is my SC nonprofit required to have members?

No members are required for your nonprofit.

Should I register my SC nonprofit as a charity?

Yes. Before soliciting donations in South Carolina you will need to register as a SC charity with the South Carolina Secretary of State and fill out a Registration Statement for a Charitable Organization.

Will I need a registered agent?

Yes. In order to operate in South Carolina you will need an SC registered agent with a South Carolina street address. This applies to both domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations. Northwest Registered Agent will gladly provide this service for your nonprofit, for only $125 per year. We provide a registered agent service that is free of gimmicks and hidden fees, making life easier on our clients.

What is an incorporator? How many do I need?

The incorporator is the person who fills out and files the Article of Incorporation with the South Carolina secretary of state’s office. The incorporator can be the owner of the company or simply someone who assists in forming a South Carolina nonprofit organization. You only need one incorporator.

Are there any requirements for the number of directors for my SC nonprofit?

There are no requirements regarding the number of directors necessary to start a South Carolina nonprofit.

Can I register an out of state nonprofit in South Carolina?

Yes. You just register with the Secretary of State as a South Carolina foreign nonprofit.

What are the annual requirements for a nonprofit in South Carolina?

The renewal fee for charities is $50. There is also an Annual Financial Report (there is no fee for this). Nonprofits file form SC 990-T by mail to the South Carolina Department of Revenue with a copy of their Federal return attached. Your nonprofit will also need to renew its Annual Tax Return by the 15th day of the fifth month following close of taxing year with the Dept. of Revenue.

South Carolina contact information:

South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office
Attn: Business Filings Division
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: (803) 734-2158

SC Secretary of State
Attn: Public Charities Division
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201
Phone: (803) 734-1790

State of South Carolina
Department of Revenue
Corporation Return
Columbia, SC 29214-0100
Phone: (803) 896-1730

Corporate Compliance
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