California Laws: Registry of Charitable Trusts

In California, the Attorney General regulates charities, the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf, and other persons and entities that hold charitable assets or operate charitable fundraising platforms. The information below (except for the headings and an additional hyperlink for our readers’ convenience to the Registry Verification Search Tool) duplicates information provided by the Office of the Attorney General. See also the Attorney General’s Charities Home Page.

Attorney General’s Regulation of the Charitable Sector:

The Attorney General regulates charities and the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf. The purpose of this oversight is to protect charitable assets for their intended use and ensure that the charitable donations contributed by Californians are not misapplied and squandered through fraud or other means. The main elements of the Attorney General’s regulatory program are:

  • The attorneys and auditors of the Charitable Trusts Section investigate and bring legal actions against charities and fundraising professionals that misuse charitable assets or engage in fraudulent fundraising practices. If you have a complaint about a charity or fundraising professional, please visit our File a Complaint page.
  • The Registry of Charitable Trusts administers the statutory registration program. All charitable trustees and fundraising professionals are required to register and file annual financial disclosure reports with the Registry. In addition, nonprofit organizations that conduct raffles for charitable purposes are required to register and file an annual financial report.

Charities – Initial Registration:

Every charitable corporation, unincorporated association, charitable trustee and other legal entities holding property for charitable purposes, must file with the Attorney General an initial registration form and other documents required by law. Under Government Code section 12585, initial registration must be filed within 30 days of first receiving charitable assets. Assets include public donations, property, government grants, noncash donations, and/or any contribution of value. NOTE: after the initial registration, there are also annual registration renewal and reporting requirements.

Initial registration and annual renewal reporting also apply to all foreign charitable organizations (i.e., corporations formed under the laws of other states) doing business or holding property in California for charitable purposes. Doing business in California includes, active solicitation, such as soliciting donations in California by mail, by advertisements in publications, or by any other means of targeting California residents for donations. Other examples of doing business in California include engaging in any of the following activities: holding meetings of the board of directors or corporate members in California, maintaining an office in California, having officers or employees who perform work in California, and/or conducting charitable programs in California.

Charities – Annual Registration Renewal:

Every charitable corporation, unincorporated association, and trustee doing business or holding property in California is required to annually renew its registration with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. Registrants must report annually by filing Form RRF-1 with the applicable renewal fee along with either IRS Form 990 (-EZ/PF) or Form CT-TR-1. The failure to renew the registration will lead to the charitable organization being listed as delinquent with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts and may lead to the loss of tax exemption status with the Franchise Tax Board.

Charities – Delinquency, Suspension, and Revocation:

When a charitable organization fails to submit complete filings for each fiscal year, its status on the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts will be listed as Delinquent. If the delinquency is not remedied, the Registry status will be further changed to Suspended, and/or Revoked. A charitable organization that is not in good standing with the Registry of Charitable Trusts may not operate or solicit donations in California. (Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 11, § 999.9.4.) If your charitable organization received a delinquency letter it is because it has not filed one or more of the required annual reports with the Registry. The Registry’s Delinquency Program provides guidance to assist delinquent charities and trustees.

Find a Registered Charity – Registry Verification Search Tool:

The Registry Verification Search tool allows you to query the Registry’s database and verify whether a charitable organization or fundraiser has complied with the Attorney General’s registration and reporting requirements. You may also review and download records and public filings that a charitable organization or fundraiser has submitted to the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. This includes copies of annual registration renewal forms (Form RRF-1), IRS Forms 990, raffle reports and fundraising reports that are in the Registry’s database. Information is retrieved from the database in real-time but data and statuses may change intraday as filings are processed.

Potential donors are encouraged to research organizations using this query tool and those available from the Secretary of StateFranchise Tax Board and IRS to determine an organization’s tax-exempt status and compliance status with all appropriate state and federal agencies. Each agency maintains their own database and independently determines the disposition of organizations relative to their statutory oversight. Each should be considered carefully and collectively to gain the most complete assessment possible. Donors may also benefit from reviewing our Resources and Donation Tips.

Sending an email to the general Registry email currently elicits the following automated response:

Thank you for contacting the Ask the Registrar mailbox.  An analyst will be contacting you with a response, if necessary, within two business days.  This email requires no response.

New Form CT-TR-1 Filing Requirement for Charities

Effective February 1, 2020, the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts requires certain registrants to file the new annual treasurer’s report Form CT-TR-1 along with Form RRF-1.

  • Registrants not required to file and do not file IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ because they do not meet the revenue requirements must file Form CT-TR-1 annually along with Form RRF-1*
  • Registrants who file IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ do not need to file Form CT-TR-1.

Updated Forms For All Registrants

Also effective February 1, 2020, charities and professional fundraisers must use amended forms.  The official, updated forms are available on the appropriate program pages as well as the Registry Forms page.

Significant changes to the forms include:

  • Annual registration renewal Form RRF-1 requires charities provide additional information, including noncash donations; and
  • Initial registration Form CT-1 now requires additional information such as DBAs and prior enforcement actions; and
  • Changes were also made to all professional fundraiser forms and the raffle forms (registration and reporting) and all are available on the Registry Forms page.

Online Renewal for Charities

* Charitable organizations that are current in their registration and annual reporting requirements may renew online.

Frequently Used Resources

While you are waiting for a response, these may help answer your question or point you in the right direction:

  • The Registry Verification Search tool allows registrants’ public filings, Registry status and other details to be viewed and downloaded from the Registry database.
  • Webinars, FAQs, links to registration-specific forms and other helpful information may be found on the appropriate program page:

Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts

Voicemail:       916-210-6400

Fax:                  916-444-3651

Mailing Addresses

Regular or Registered Mail:               Overnight Mail:

Registry of Charitable Trusts              Registry of Charitable Trusts

PO Box 903447                                    1300 I Street

Sacramento CA 94203-4470            Sacramento CA 95814

Filing to Cure Delinquency:  To help expedite analysis and processing of filings from organizations looking to cure delinquency, please send ALL filings, forms & payments for fees for ALL fiscal years due and required to fully cure your delinquency together in a single envelope and send ATTN: Delinquency Program.  See Delinquency program page for more information about curing delinquency.

If your inquiry is in regards to a complaint, please allow thirty (30) business days for a response.