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Due date fast approaching for Wisconsin charitable registration renewal

September 24, 2014

Charitable organizations soliciting contributions in Wisconsin have until September 30 to renew their registrations to solicit contributions in the State of Wisconsin.

Most charitable organizations soliciting contributions in Wisconsin have long been required to register with the State prior to soliciting those contributions. While some charitable organizations, such as churches and other religious organizations, some schools, and some organizations soliciting relatively low levels of contributions in Wisconsin, are exempt from registration, the majority of charities must comply with this registration requirement.

Prior to November 1, 2013, the registration requirement was imposed under Chapter 440 of the Wisconsin Statutes, and the requirement was enforced by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). However, in the past many charitable organizations failed to register or let their registrations lapse in Wisconsin.

On November 1, 2013, regulatory authority over charitable organizations was transferred to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). The DFI’s regulatory authority stems from Chapter 202 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which was enacted as part of the 2013-15 budget bill, and which has now replaced Chapter 440.

Early indicators show the DFI intends to take an active role in enforcing charitable registration before a charity may solicit contributions in Wisconsin. Given the range of penalties the DFI may impose—which range from reprimands, to the denial, limitation, suspension, revocation, restriction, or nonrenewal of a charitable organization’s registration, up to civil forfeitures that can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars—charitable organizations that solicit contributions in Wisconsin are well-advised to comply with the registration requirements. The registration requirements include an annual application to renew registration.

Under the DFI’s process for registration renewals, the deadline for renewal has actually passed. However, charitable organizations can nevertheless still submit their renewal applications through September 30, 2014, subject to a $25 late fee on top of the $54 annual renewal fee. A charitable organization that fails to meet this deadline will be required to apply as a new applicant if it wishes to continue to solicit contributions in Wisconsin. The renewal application must be submitted online and the portal for the application is available on the DFI’s website, here.

Note that registered charitable organizations receiving over $5,000 of contributions in a fiscal year must also submit annual reports to the DFI’s Division of Banking. These reports are due within nine months of the end of an organization’s fiscal year. Unlike the federal Form 990, there is no mechanism available to the DFI to extend this due date. For calendar year organizations, the 2013 report must be submitted by September 30, 2014, even if the Form 990 is on extension until November 15, 2014.

Should you require more information regarding your organization’s registration to solicit contributions in Wisconsin, please contact a Godfrey & Kahn attorney.

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