Legal Question in Business Law in California

Do you have to be 18 to apply for nonprofit status? I'm fully prepared to take on all the responsibility regarding its creation but don't know if I have to be an adult.

Asked on 7/04/13, 3:11 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

You could almost certainly form a California nonprofit corporation. Among other things, Corporations Code section 702(d) gives minors the right to vote their corporate shares, and I find nothing restricting the right of a minor to form a corporation, including a nonprofit.

Nevertheless, contracts of minors, except for the necessities of life, are voidable, and you would presumably have to identify yourself as a minor to everyone you wanted to do business with, including the Internal Revenue Service.

There are two steps in forming a nonprofit, for practical purposes. First, you form the corporation under state law. Forming a nonprofit is a bit more complicated than forming a for-profit business corporation, but not formidable, and can probably be done without anyone even inquiring about your age.

The second step is applying to the IRS for its recognition of your status as a 501(c)(3) or whatever kind of nonprofit you wish to be, after the corporation is founded. This can be a painstaking, difficult, expensive and time-consuming step. The IRS asks lots of questions, and it will take weeks or months. The fact that you are a minor may or may not arise during the process.

Finally, setting up and operating any business, for-profit or nonprofit, requires entering into contracts. I would expect you'd have a hard time conducting business as a minor. Solutions might involve selecting one or more adults to work with you.

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Answered on 7/04/13, 8:22 pm

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