Easy Steps To Protect Your Washington Nonprofit and Keep Your Nonprofit Compliant

If you are starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Washington, you have come to the right place. After following the easy steps for Washington nonprofit formation, follow this guide to help keep your Washington nonprofit compliant and protected.

In this guide we cover:

  1. How to Protect Your Washington Nonprofit
  2. How to Keep Your Washington Nonprofit Compliant
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How to Protect Your Washington Nonprofit

Get Business Insurance

As with any other business, there may be risks involved in running the nonprofit. Getting insurance for your nonprofit allows you to focus on your passion while minimizing your liability.

Here are some of the common types of insurance you may want to consider for your organization:

  • General Liability Coverage
  • Directors and Officers Coverage
  • Social Service Professional Coverage

Your coverage needs will vary based on your organization and the work you do.

Properly Sign Legal Documents

There will be times when you will be signing a document on behalf of your nonprofit. It is important that these times are easily distinguishable from when you are signing a document as an individual. If a document isn’t properly signed, you might suddenly find yourself personally responsible for something the organization should have been liable for.

To avoid such confusion we recommend you and all the members of your organization follow the following format:

  • The official name of your nonprofit
  • Your signature
  • Your full legal name
  • Your position in the organization

How to Keep Your Washington Nonprofit Compliant

Maintain A Registered Agent

Nonprofits that have incorporated are required to maintain a registered agent with an office address in Washington.

If the agent or the office address changes, you must file a Statement of Change/Designation of Registered Agent with the Secretary of State to effect a change to the articles of incorporation.

NOTE: Failure to do so may result in termination of the corporation.

File Required Periodic Reports

The secretary of state requires every organization to file an annual report. This report is due by the end of your registration anniversary month. You can complete your report online or submit by mail to the address below:

Secretary of State
Corporations Division
801 Capitol Way South
P.O. Box 40234
Olympia, WA 98504-0234

Information: (360) 725-0377

Website: www.secstate.wa.gov

Filing Fee: $10

NOTE: Failure to file a report on time will result in a $25 delinquent fee and may result in termination of the corporation.

State Corporate Tax Return

The combined excise tax is due every year by January 31st.

State of Washington
Department of Revenue
P.O. Box 47464
Olympia, WA 98504-7464

Information: (800) 647-7706

Website: www.dor.wa.gov

Filing Fee: $0

Washington Business Permits & Licenses

As a nonprofit in the state of Washington, your organization will need a general business license. You may apply for your business license in one of three ways:

Option A: By Mail

You can apply for your business license by filling out a Business License Application and mailing your check (or money order) to the Department of Revenue.

Option B: In-Person

You can apply for a business license in-person at one of the Department of Revenue’s business licensing offices.

Option C: Online

Through the State of Washington’s Business Licensing Service through the Department of Revenue, you can apply for your business license, learn how to hire employees, etc.


Most organizations that will be soliciting for or receiving funds in Washington must be registered with the Washington Secretary of State online or by mail, and renew every year.

Corporations & Charities Division
P.O. Box 40234
Olympia, WA 98504-0234

Phone: 360-725-0378

Website: www.sos.wa.gov/corps

Filing Fee: $0

NOTE: If your organization receives less than $50,000 in the year it may not need to register. Check to see if your organization is exempt from registration requirements.


If your organization will have employees you must register with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

You can easily apply online or find the contact information for your local Department of Social and Health Services.

In addition, you may be subject to unemployment taxes, which are managed by the Washington Employment Security Department.

Public Inspection Rules for all 501(c)(3) Organizations

All organizations that have been granted the 501(c)(3) status are required to disclose the following documents to the public when requested:

  • Annual returns for 3 years after the due date (this includes returns like Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, and any Forms 990-T)
  • All Form 990 Schedules (except portions of Schedule B), attachments and supporting documents.
  • Application of exemption and all supporting documents such as Form 1023
  • The official paperwork from the IRS that shows that your organization has tax-exempt status.

The following do NOT need to be shared with the public

  • Portions of schedule B of Form 990/990-EZ that identify the contributors. ( You only need to disclose the amount contributed and the nature of the contributions)
  • Any unfavorable rulings such as an earlier denial of tax-exempt status.
  • Any information the IRS has said you can withhold. This may include things like sensitive patents and trade secrets.


How long do I have to produce these documents if requested?

Ideally within the same day. If your organization doesn’t have an office or maintains limited hours during parts of the year, the information should be made available within two weeks.

Do I need to provide copies of the documents?

If someone asks for copies in person or in writing you must provide them with copies.

Can I charge for copies?

You can charge a reasonable amount for making copies of the documents requested.

NOTE: It may be easiest to have the documents available on your website so that anyone who requests copies can be sent to the site. This allows you to stay compliant without having to spend a lot of time dealing with document requests.

Annual Returns for Tax-Exempt Organizations

Most tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are required to file an annual return with the IRS (Check the list of exceptions).

Which form you should use to file the annual returns depends on the annual gross receipt amounts for your organization.

"Gross receipt" is defined by the IRS as “the total amounts the organization received from all sources during its annual accounting period, without subtracting any costs or expenses”

  • For gross receipts ≤$50,000 --- File 990-N
  • Gross receipts <$200,000 and total assets <$500,000 --- File 990- EZ
  • Gross receipts >$200,000 or Total assets >$500,000 --- File 990

For any questions, you can call the IRS at

  • (800) 829-3676 (Form-related questions)
  • (800) 829-1040 (General information)

When is form 990 due?

You have a little over 4 months after your taxable year comes to an end to file Form 990. It is due on the 15th day of the 5th month. So if your taxable year ends on Dec 31st, your form 990 is due on May 15th.

NOTE: If your organization fails to file form 990 for 3 consecutive years, it will automatically lose its tax-exempt status.

Report Unrelated Business Income

If your Washington organization has a gross income of ≥$1000 from a trade or business that is not related to the stated purpose of the organization, then it must file Form 990-T to pay tax on that income.