This was a topic that came up on another thread, and I figured it deserved its own post.
What are the advantages for us to incorporate as 501(3)c tax-exempt corporations? The disadvantages? How many folks out there have studied it or done it?
Personally, I think it's one good way to ensure a lasting institutional legacy, although I don't advocate using the "church" model that it was designed to fit in the traditional way. Personally, I think every circle and grove that plans on being around for a while and wants to build a legacy should consider it. I'm planning on incorporating my family's tradition as such, to take advantage of some of the benefits of being a legally-recognized "church".
Yeah, my tradition should qualify. It should be pretty easy to establish the difference between myself as a private individual and myself as a member of the organization, since I have a job and stuff and won't be depending on the corp for anything. And since I have two "cadet" branches to the family trad, thanks to former students, it should be pretty easy to get around that issue. Thanks!
I'm not worried about profit as much as I am protecting an eventual sanctuary land from taxation. I'm also not worried about politics or the government intruding into my life -- they're there already, after all. I've run for political office before, and I'd never use an official religious organization to lobby or otherwise politick from.
But I'd like to be able to donate (and solicit donations from some other folks, not necessarily the public at large) to the end of establishing a nemeton somewhere. The non-profit status would be helpful for that.
I'm a Director and one of the founders of a 501(c) 3 charity. A good CPA, $3,000, and two years later, we got our exempt status. Now for a religious organization, I'm not at all sure about. But believe me, the IRS is very thurough in checking you out.
There are two thresholds for this:
1. The State level of a non-profit organization
2. Federal IRS requirements for tax exempt status
The State guidelines are generally not so bad (but, duh, check your state of incorporation).
The IRS screening process can be kinda involved and the holy grail target is Tax Exemption. You would be shooting for a 501c3 as either a "church" or religious organization.
As a Church, you get a whole lot more options (tax exempt property!) but the requirements of which will likely require some education for you and the IRS agent. You will be expected to prove that the church is functioning as a place of religion. (They do ask for website info, practices, rituals, for example.)
As a religious organization, there are many less hoops to jump through as you just need to prove that it's affiliated with a religion or a religious cause.
My suggestion: there are many pagan organizations that can likely pull you under their umbrella of status. Filing as a "franchise" is easy as opposed to recreating the wheel from scratch.
What you are looking for is called a "Trust", depending on the state you file the trust in it can be perpetual. I wouldn't recommend a 501.3.c, and a non-profit will probably do what you want until later turning it into a perpetual trust, something you can require in the bylaws of the non-profit so even if you die the entirety of the non-profit can still be written to a perpetual trust.