New York AG Launches Easy-to-Use Online Filing Portal for State Charities

Morgan Lewis
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Morgan Lewis

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced the launch of an easy-to-use online filing portal for charities to file required state annual financial disclosures. The new system will use e-signatures and electronic payments to speed up annual filings for thousands of charities required to register with the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.

NEW YORK’S ANNUAL FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES FOR CHARITIES

Charities formed or operating in New York are required to make annual financial disclosures to the Attorney General’s Office. These disclosures are generally made on Form CHAR500. From time to time, charities may also need to register changes (such as changes in name or contact information), file for annual exemptions from New York taxes, and pay required fees.

While the Attorney General’s Office has previously permitted organizations to make filings and registrations online, changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic have put additional pressure on non-electronic-filing methods. In addition, the Attorney General’s Office has announced goals of minimizing the Charities Bureau’s response time and cutting down on errors in filings.

NEW, EASY-TO-USE ONLINE FILING SYSTEM

Accordingly, at the end of October, James announced the launch of a new, easy-to-use online filing system for New York charities’ annual filings. The purposes of the streamlined application include eliminating guesswork by filers, minimizing Charities Bureau response times, and reducing errors and incomplete filings. James made the following statement in a press release regarding the new system: “This online portal will help us release information more quickly, protect donors, and hold bad actors accountable when they commit fraud. My office is committed to openness and accountability, and this is just the latest step we’re taking to make the reporting process more transparent to all New Yorkers.”

The new online filing system can be found at the Charities Bureau’s website, under “Annual Filing.” The new system may be used for filings for fiscal years that began in 2019 or later. (Filings for earlier fiscal years must be made on Form990.org.) Before beginning an annual filing, the new system allows charities to complete the Charities Annual Filing Checklist, which covers all the information and documents that will be needed to complete the filing. The Charities Bureau recommends completing this checklist before initiating a filing on the new portal. Once initiated, the online filing system uses e-signatures and electronic payments to allow filers to complete their filings in one sitting.

The Attorney General’s Office encourages organizations with a November 15 filing deadline to use online filings to fulfil their annual filing requirement for faster and more efficient processing.

E-FILING BASICS: A PREVIEW FOR ONLINE FILERS

E-filers will need the following documents and information to complete their annual filings on the new system (see also the Charities Annual Filing Checklist):

  • Filing for the 2019 tax year or later.
  • Email and password for an online account with the Charities Bureau.
  • A New York state Charities Bureau registration number.
  • Information about professional fundraisers used by the organization in the filing year, if any.
  • A valid email address and primary contact person for an annual filing.
  • An Internal Revenue Service Form 990, 990-EZ, 990 PF, or 990-N (PDFs only, with a size under 10MB).
  • If the organization’s name changed during the filing year, a certificate of amendment or other evidence of name change.
  • An independent certified public accountant’s financial review or audit report if applicable.
  • A credit card number or e-check to pay fees.
  • Email addresses for required signatories.

An annual e-filing allows organizations to easily:

  • Update names and addresses.
  • Confirm statutory filing designations: 7-A, EPTL, Dual, or Exempt.
  • File for annual exemptions.
  • Calculate fees automatically.
  • Provide e-signatures and e-payments (credit card or e-check).

Questions can be directed to the Charities Bureau’s customer service support for e-filing.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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