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Question added to topic Ask EntrepreneurOctober 10, 2012

Can I Add Not-for-Profit Outreach to My Existing Business?

I run benefits for local individuals in my community, and I would really like to put a name on this charity work and use my for-profit company as a permanent sponsor. Can I do this and still be legal or do I have to file a 401(c)3?

More and more, small businesses are looking for ways to enhance their visibility and share their values by taking a "socially conscious" approach and in getting involved in cause marketing. From a legal perspective, there's nothing that prevents your company from being a "sponsor" of good causes. The question becomes how you want this activity to be treated.

It's possible you could write it off as a marketing expense. However, if you want all of the time and money invested in "sponsorship" to be tax deductible as a charitable contribution, you'll run into some problems because your business has not been formed as a charitable organization, nor are the recipients of your sponsorship charitable organizations either. In addition, forming a 501(c)3 organization involves a fair amount of oversight and reporting, so it may be more trouble than it's worth. Best to speak with your tax advisor about your goals.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. is an award-winning New York City attorney, edutainer and author. Under her Ask The Business Lawyer brand, she reaches thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners with her legal services, professional speaking, information products, and LexAppeal weekly ezine. She also writes the Making It Legal blog.

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