How to Incorporate Your Coven
in the State of Florida
11/14/2016


Who decides what is a religion in the United States of America? 



It's the Internal Revenue Service. Setting aside commentaries upon

spirituality within our country, being recognized as a religious

community means that you get to ordain your own clergy, avoid sales

tax, and be taken more seriously by mundane organizations. Budget

$200 for state and federal filing fees to fund this venture.



The key to looking more like established groups, is to incorporate.

Corporations are governed by state law. You do not have to be a

lawyer to do this, but you must know something of the requirements

for not-for-profit corporations. In Florida, these are defined in

Chapter 617 of the Florida statutes. The state will insist that you

include specific elements within your charter or "organizing

document." See dos.myflorida.com



A corporation is expected to have a President, Secretary,

Treasurer, and a Registered Agent. The President calls and presides

at meetings and speaks for the corporation. The Secretary keeps

records and the Treasurer manages the money. The Registered Agent

is a person who keeps regular office hours upon whom subpoenas can

be served. Once officially served, such legal notices can not be

ignored. Thus you need a responsible person for registered agent. 

After that, you can have as many Vice Presidents, Assistant

Secretaries and Assistant Treasurers as you like.



A non-profit corporation must have a Board of Directors of three 

or more Directors. It's your directors who set policy. You determine 

whether your officers are also directors or not.



The second entity to be reckoned with is the Internal Revenue

Service. They will insist that you include specific provisions in

your charter. You do not have to be an accountant, but you must

understand the provisions in IRS Publication 1828 Tax Guide for

Churches and Religious Organizations. There is also Publication 

557 Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization and Publication 517  

Social Security and Other Information for Members of the Clergy & 

Religious Workers. See www.irs.ustreas.gov



The third entity to be reckoned with is your own community. How

will you work, play and fight together? You know more about this

than any outside attorney or accountant. You will be welcoming

people into your community, performing ordinations, performing

ministries, and occasionally banishing people. How will you do this

in a manner that your community will view as fair?



After you jump through all these hoops and attain your Letter of

Determination from the IRS that you are tax-exempt, you will have

birthed a legal structure of some value. You will want to include

provisions to make it difficult for someone else to snatch this

corporation away from you.



The IRS does not declare you to be tax-exempt. They recognize from

your reported behavior that you are acting like an organization

exempt from taxation. It's the old, "If you walk like a duck and

quack like a duck, they write you a letter that says you are a duck."



Your reported behavior is what you put in your application for a

tax-exempt ruling, Package 1023, 501(c)(3) Kit. In this, you 

want to include everything you may ever do, because later the IRS 

looks for "unrelated business income and activities." Once 

they have signed off on your behavior, you are OK.



You file your application after you have one calendar year of

documented operations. You compile this data of finances and

programs to demonstrate that you are doing what you say. Since you

are the successor to an unincorporated association, you will

include documentation of this history too.



Your corporation is defined by a public document called a charter

or articles of incorporation. These include the required elements

of your corporation plus anything else you would not want to get

lost. In Florida, this charter is recorded with the Secretary of

State and is available for inspection by anyone. It costs money to

file a charter and again if you amend it.



Your corporation is further defined by a private document called

bylaws. Here the details are stated of what is defined in the

charter. You keep your bylaws to yourself, except from the IRA,

banks, and others with whom you have a business relationship. Thus

you want these documents to look as long-established, professional,

formal, and normal as possible.



You can amend your bylaws as often as you want and by the

procedures you establish. It is possible than members could

squabble over which set of bylaws is the most current. Keep good

records.



Once you have your charter filed with the Secretary of State, you

can apply to the IRS for a Tax Identification Number, or TIN. This

is a "social security number for corporations."  It has nothing to

do with your tax status. Every business entity with which you deal

will want to know your tax number.



Many organizations look to the IRS for initial screening of

charities. If the IRS will not recognize you as a 501(c)(3)

organization, they will not talk to you.



Once you have received your Letter of Determination, you can apply

to the Florida Department of Revenue for a Consumer's Certificate

of Exemption from state sales tax by filing Form DR-5. This certificate 

comes with a number different from your TIN. To get it, a religious 

organization must hold a 501(c)(3) ruling and also document that they 

hold regular worship services in a physical location. See 

dor.myflorida.com/dor/



Linked here are a sample charter and bylaws. We do not give legal or

accounting advice, and I recommend that you seek out competent

guidance in these areas. We only report what has previously worked

for us. It takes both "visionary" and "detail" talent to birth a

religious corporation. One skill without the other will not be

sufficient.



Study these papers with an eye towards Good Witch/Bad Witch. 

How do you maintain a sense of fairness as you add or remove

people from your council or membership? Who will vote to do what

and how many must agree? Who can amend your bylaws, where you will

define these rules? These are not simple questions.



The meat of your corporation is in the Bylaws. But the Charter 

does define how you change your Bylaws, so you want changing 

the how-to-change to be very difficult. The next question is how 

many Bad Witches might appear on your Council to vote against 

the Good Witches, before you can toss them out. The equation 

can become rather subtle.



There are many twists and turns in the creation of all this paper.

Notice that the Council is the Inner Court and the members are the 

Outer Court. The concept of "Elder in Communion" creates a way 

to include others on a parallel and sympathetic path and to extend 

to them "marrying credentials." There are other side benefits 

such as options in the purchase of sacramental wine. This permit 

would be used through a distributor such as Southern Wine and Spirits

for purchases by the case. Southern has rules like a $200 or five case 

minimum.



Section 617.0834 of the 2016 Florida Statutes provides for the

indemnification of officers, directors, employees and agents from 

liability for monetary damages to any person for any statement, 

vote, decision, or failure to take action within specified limits.



The filing fees for all of this are $78.75 for the Florida Charter 

in 2012, $61.25 to renew the Florida corporation each year, and $400 

to file the application for tax-exemption with the I.R.S. in 2012 

after building a year of history.



Every word counts. This is like painting a picture, weaving a

tapestry, or casting a spell. Here is not a task to be left to

clerks.

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