How to open a Branch Bank Account
It is so simple.
Start by getting an Employer Identification Number as a Volunteer/Community Organization, by applying online at IRS.gov. There is no charge for this! The EIN is your branch’s tax id, the identifier used by organizations and businesses, the same way you use your Social Security Number for your personal taxes. (Very few branches will have to file tax returns – only if your annual income is more than $5000. We wish!)
- Click the link that says “Apply online now”.
- On the next page, click “Begin Application”.
- On the next page, which asks you to choose what type of legal entity you are applying on behalf of, select “View Additional Types, Including Tax-Exempt and Governmental Organizations.” Your branch is not Tax-Exempt, but don’t worry!
- From the list that follows, select “Community or Volunteer Group” and click “Continue”
- Fill out the rest of the requested information, and you’ll be given your branch’s EIN!
Getting your own branch tax ID allows the branch finances to be kept separate from those of national WILPF, and separate from any individual branch member; and it is a true representation of the relationship between branches and the central organization.
Your branch does not need any Articles of Incorporation, only a set of bylaws and a copy of minutes signed by the branch secretary, showing which people should be allowed to sign checks. The minutes should state that they were approved by the branch. It’s fine to include the name “Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom”, or “WILPF” in the name of their bank account. (Yes, there’s a danger that checks intended for national WILPF would be deposited in the branch bank account, but if we can’t trust the branches, we might as well fold up the whole show.)
Extra information about Articles of Incorporation: national WILPF does not allow branches to be incorporated on their own. So do not let your banker try to stampede you into applying for tax exempt status. And national WILPF has not applied for a Group Exemption which would allow branches to operate as a satellite. We talked about it at the national level a couple of years ago, but it would be an extra burden on the central organization to meld the annual financial reporting of dozens of branches into the main organization’s finances, and the stringent reporting requirements would also be a significant burden for any branches which chose to be part of the Group.
It’s all a lot simpler for the branch to operate as what they are: a volunteer/community organization, financially and legally independent of other branches and of the central body. That’s what the Sacramento branch has done, so we have a bank account and an EIN and it was simplicity itself.
The IRS set up that Community Organization EIN category specifically so groupings like our local branches could get bank accounts. That’s what it says on the IRS.gov website. So don’t let your bank or credit union try to tell you that your branch has to incorporate or file as a Foreign Corporation, or any of that complicated stuff?
Also, in most cases, Branches do not need to file any income tax returns. The following isn’t official from the IRS, but I found it in a business blog about nonprofits and volunteer organizations and taxes, and it’s standard practice:
“Volunteer organizations operating as an unincorporated group of two or more people who came together for a common purpose by mutual decision are considered unincorporated associations. This differs from a business partnership, which occurs whenever two or more people or entities come together to transact business to earn a profit. An unincorporated association serving in a volunteer capacity for the public good is considered an unincorporated nonprofit association. These organizations do not have to pay taxes or file a tax return if they have no more than $5,000 in revenues.”
Prepared by Ellen Schwartz, March 2, 2017. firstname.lastname@example.org