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How To Start A Nonprofit In Kentucky

To start a nonprofit corporation in Kentucky, you must file nonprofit articles of incorporation with the Kentucky Secretary of State. You can file your articles online, by mail, or in person. The articles of incorporation cost $8 to file. Once filed with the state, your articles of incorporation officially create your Kentucky nonprofit corporation, but truly preparing a nonprofit to pursue its mission involves several additional steps.


Kentucky Nonprofit Filing Options

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Download the Kentucky Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation. Fill out the form and submit to the state.

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KY Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation Requirements

To incorporate a Kentucky nonprofit, you must complete and file the Articles of Incorporation for Nonprofit Corporations with the Kentucky Secretary of State. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.

1. Corporate Name

Your nonprofit’s name must include the phrasing “corporation” or “incorporated” (or an abbreviated form of these words), and it must be distinguishable from the names of other businesses in the records of the Kentucky Secretary of State. You can do a preliminary name availability search at the KY Secretary of State’s website.

2. Purpose

Kentucky will accept a fairly general description of your nonprofit’s purpose, such as indicating that your nonprofit is organized under the appropriate Kansas laws and “for any lawful purpose,” but that won’t satisfy the IRS. If you intend to apply for 501(c) tax-exempt status, write your own articles that include a detailed statement of purpose using the special tax-exempt language provided by the IRS.

3. Registered Office and Agent

Your registered agent is the individual or business authorized to accept services of process (lawsuits) on behalf of your nonprofit. You can list yourself, a willing associate, or an authorized provider of registered agent services (like Northwest). Your registered office is simply the Kentucky street address where your registered agent is available during normal business hours.

4. Principal Office

Your articles should also include the address of your nonprofit’s principal office (its principal place of business). If you hire Northwest to serve as your registered agent, you can also enter our Kansas street address here.

5. Directors

List the names and addresses of your nonprofit’s initial board of directors (at least three). It is fine to list PO Boxes if you’re concerned about listing your directors’ street addresses in the public record.

6. Incorporator(s)

List the names and addresses of your nonprofit’s incorporators. An incorporator is simply an individual or business that signs and delivers your Articles of Incorporation, and it doesn’t have to be a director, officer, or member of your nonprofit. Hire Northwest to form your Kentucky nonprofit, and we’ll be your incorporator.

7. Effective Date

Kentucky allows nonprofits to delay their start date up to 90 days after the date of filing (organizations sometimes do this for tax filing purposes). Most nonprofits leaves this section blank and officially start on the day the state files their articles of incorporation.

8. Signatures

Kentucky requires nonprofit Articles of Incorporation to include the signature of an incorporator and a registered agent. Hire Northwest to form your nonprofit, and we’ll serve as your incorporator and your registered agent, making this step the easiest step of all.

How Much Does It Cost to Incorporate a Kentucky Nonprofit?

Kentucky charges an $8 fee to file nonprofit Articles of Incorporation, and the fee doesn’t change for online, in-person, or mailed filing.

How Long Does It Take to Start a Kentucky Nonprofit?

Most in-person or online filings are processed the very same business day they are received by the state. Mailed filings will take extra days for postage.

Does a Kentucky Nonprofit Need a Registered Agent?

Yes, Kentucky requires your nonprofit to appoint a Kentucky registered agent to receive services of process (lawsuits) on its behalf. You can do the job yourself, appoint an associate, or hire an authorized registered agent service. A registered agent must be available at a physical Kentucky address (your nonprofit’s registered office) during normal business hours, and that address appears publicly on your Articles of Incorporation. Unless you don’t mind being stuck at your desk, receiving a lot of junk mail, and dealing with solicitors showing up at your door, we recommend hiring a Kentucky registered agent service like Northwest.


Get a Federal EIN from the IRS

Do I Need A Tax ID Number (EIN) For A Kentucky Nonprofit?

Yes, you’ll need a federal employer identification number (EIN) to navigate your nonprofit’s finances and apply for federal and/or state tax exemptions (among numerous other financial matters). After the Kentucky Secretary of State approves your Articles of Incorporation, you can apply for an EIN at the IRS website. If you’d rather not deal with the IRS, you can also add our EIN service for an additional fee when you hire Northwest.


Hold Your Organizational Meeting & Adopt Bylaws

Does A Kentucky Nonprofit Need Bylaws?

Yes, your Kentucky nonprofit should adopt bylaws. Do so at your nonprofit’s first official meeting after the state approves your Articles of Incorporation and before you apply for 501(c) status with the IRS. For the most part, your bylaws function as internal documents—as a way for your directors, officers, and members to govern themselves and each other—but the Kentucky Attorney General will want a copy if and when you register as a Kentucky charity.

Drafting effective bylaws isn’t easy, but Northwest can help. Hire us, and your account will include an adaptable template for writing nonprofit bylaws as well as numerous other free nonprofit forms to help get you started.


Apply for Federal and/or State Tax Exemptions

Will My Kentucky Nonprofit Be Tax-Exempt?

Your Kentucky nonprofit won’t automatically qualify as a tax-exempt entity. For that to happen, you need to file an Application for Recognition of Exemption with the IRS, which is a lengthy form detailing your nonprofit’s finances, organization, and purpose. Currently, the IRS recognizes more than two dozen types of tax-exempt nonprofits under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, but most nonprofits apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for public charities and private foundations. To qualify as a 501(c)(3) organization, your nonprofit’s Articles of Incorporation must include a statement of purpose and dissolution of assets provision using the special tax-exempt languagerequired by the IRS.

If your nonprofit obtains 501(c) status from the federal government, it will also be exempt from the Kentucky state corporate tax. Submit Form 51A125 (the Application for Purchase Exemption) to the Kansas Department of Revenue to seek an exemption from the Kentucky sales and use tax. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Kentucky state tax exemptions.


Obtain Kentucky State Business Licenses

Does A Kentucky Nonprofit Need A Business License?

Kentucky doesn’t issue a statewide business license, but many cities and counties have licensing requirements of their own. To find out if any of your nonprofit’s activities require specific licenses or permits, go to the Kentucky One Stop Business Portal website and use their Search Permits and Licenses database.

Should My Nonprofit Register For KY State Tax Accounts?

Kentucky requires nonprofits to file a Kentucky Tax Registration Application with the KY Department of Revenue, which you can do online at the department’s website or by mail. This form will help you sign up for any tax account numbers relevant to your nonprofit’s activities (such as the withholding tax, if you intend to hire and pay employees, and a sales tax account).

Do I Have To Register My Nonprofit As A Charity In Kentucky?

If you plan to collect donations, you will need to register as a charity with the Kentucky Attorney General’s office, though the process differs a little depending on the nature of your nonprofit. For instance, a 501(c) organization sends its IRS determination letter, its articles of incorporation, and its bylaws to the Kentucky Attorney General. If the nonprofit has been around long enough to have filed tax returns, it will also send its most recent IRS Form 990. New 501(c) nonprofits will instead send the KY Attorney General a notice of intent to solicit. If your nonprofit isn’t (or isn’t yet) a 501(c) tax-exempt organization, you will file a Charitable Organization Unified Registration Statement (URS) instead. There are no filing fees.

You will also renew your charity registration with the Kentucky Attorney General each year. If your nonprofit filed a URS, you’ll need to renew by December 31st each year (which is also the date your registration expires). Renewals for 501(c) nonprofits are due 4 months and 15 days after the end of the organization’s fiscal year. As with the initial registration, there are no fees to renew your charitable status with the Kentucky Attorney General. Learn more at Northwest’s guide to Charity Registration in Kentucky.


Open a Bank Account for Your KY Nonprofit

To open a bank account for your Kentucky nonprofit, you will need to bring the following items with you to the bank:

  • A copy of your Kentucky nonprofit’s articles of incorporation
  • A copy of your nonprofit’s bylaws
  • Your Kentucky nonprofit’s EIN

It’s wise to call your ahead of time to check its requirements. Some banks may require you to bring a resolution authorizing you to open a bank account in your nonprofit’s name (particularly if your nonprofit has several directors and/or officers).


Submit the Kentucky Nonprofit Annual Report

What Is The Kentucky Nonprofit Annual Report?

The Kentucky Secretary of State requires nonprofits to submit annual reports confirming the accuracy of their membership and contact information. Your annual report is due each year between January 1st and June 30th, and there is a $15 filing fee. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t use the annual report to change your nonprofit’s information. To make changes, you’ll need to file a Statement of Change for an additional $10 fee.

When you hire Northwest, we’ll send you reminders to file your annual reports, but you can also add our convenient Kentucky Annual Report Service for an additional fee.