Michigan has a specific set of statutes governing the incorporation of ecclesiastical organizations. Ecclesiastical corporations must have at least three people to qualify under Michigan law. The organization's purpose must be to spread and teach religious principles. Michigan ecclesiastical corporations are nonprofit in nature. They generally also receive special tax exemptions from state and federal taxing authorities.
Articles of Incorporation
Michigan ecclesiastical corporations must file articles of incorporation with the Corporation Division of the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The articles must state the name of the organization and its location. It also must note any former names used by the entity and the date on which any prior articles were filed. A resident agent must be named and his address provided for legal process service. A religious organization that is affiliated with a larger church or denomination, such as the Methodist church, must identify the affiliation in its articles. Articles of incorporation forms can be obtained online or in person at the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. A reputable online legal service may also assist you with your incorporation needs.
Read More: How to Locate Articles of Incorporation
Duration and Purpose
An ecclesiastical corporation must state in its articles whether it intends to operate perpetually, meaning with no end date, or if it intends to operate for a fixed period of time. If it intends to operate for a fixed amount of time the period for operation must be identified. The party controlling the affairs of the organization, such as a pastor or minister, must sign and date the final page of the articles before a notary public.
An ecclesiastical corporation is not de jure, meaning legally recognized, until the completed and signed articles of incorporation are duly registered with the State of Michigan. A filing fee of $10 (as of 2012) must be paid and the articles may be mailed to Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Bureau of Commercial Services, Corporation Division, P.O. Box 30054, Lansing, MI 48909. You may file articles in person at 2501 Woodlake Circle Okemos, MI. The stamped original is returned to the corporation and electronic copies are made available online once filed.
Ecclesiastical corporations receive preferred tax status at both the state and federal level. Specific tax regulations must be carefully followed by an ecclesiastical corporation. Registering the articles of corporation for the organization's formation is a critical step. However, that in itself does not ensure tax exemptions. Churches should be certain to know and follow all IRS and state treasury regulations to protect its qualified tax treatment.
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.