What Is the Purpose of a Registered Agent?
A registered agent, which is called a resident agent or statutory agent in some states, is an individual or entity that a nonprofit (or other formal business structure) chooses to receive service of process, correspondence from the government, and compliance documents on behalf of the business. Type of documents a business may receive include:
- Legal documents
- Tax forms
- Summons (service of process), which is a notice of a lawsuit
- Official correspondence from the government
A registered agent also helps your business comply with the rules that govern it by reminding you of filing deadlines and forwarding legal notices so that you don’t face penalties for noncompliance.
How Does a Nonprofit Designate and Change Its Registered Agent?
Most states require a nonprofit to designate a registered agent at the formation stage. Then, you must list the name of your registered agent and/or the registered office address when you file your Articles of Incorporation with the appropriate state agency.
You also can change your registered agent later on using a form that the state provides for this purpose.
Can a Nonprofit Owner Be a Registered Agent?
A nonprofit owner can act as their own registered agent. Alternatively, a registered agent can be someone else who meets the criteria, which generally are:
- Being 18 years or older
- Having a physical address in the state where the business is formed (i.e., not just a P.O. box)
- Being available in person to receive documents during normal business hours (typically between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday)
Should a Nonprofit Use a Registered Agent Service?
A nonprofit owner might want to use a reliable, affordable registered agent service like ZenBusiness or Incfile for a variety of reasons:
- Compliance With the Law
- Peace of Mind
For more information, see our guide Should I Use a Registered Agent Service?
Compliance With the Law
States sometimes change filing deadlines for annual reports and other legal requirements. A registered agent helps you stay on top of these rules by sending regular reminders.
In addition, a registered agent can keep copies of your important corporate documents that you don’t want to lose if a fire, flood, or other incident destroys the originals.
Peace of Mind
When you’re spending a lot of time and energy running your business, the last thing you want is to miss an important deadline or document. A professional, third-party registered agent helps you focus on expanding your business while taking care of official paperwork for you.
By law, a registered agent is required to be available to receive documents during normal business hours. If you would like to keep a different work schedule, hiring a registered agent service will allow you to do that.
All registered agents must have their physical addresses listed in a public database. If you act as your own registered agent and work out of your home, that means your home address will be public. Alternatively, if you have a separate office, you may want to avoid having sensitive documents like a court summons delivered there in front of your customers or employees.
Hiring a registered agent service takes care of both of these privacy concerns because all documents will be delivered to the service’s publicly available address.
Nonprofit Registered Agent Frequently Asked Questions
Can a nonprofit act as its own registered agent?
A nonprofit can act as its own registered agent. However, to save time, increase flexibility, and help with corporate compliance, we recommend hiring a registered agent service.
What are the risks of being a registered agent?
Being your own registered agent carries risks. In particular, you might miss filing deadlines or service of process, which could result in fines or a default judgment against you. You also might not be available to receive official government documents when they are delivered, which could also result in fines.
What are the costs of using a registered agent service?
The costs of using a registered agent service range from about $50 to $300 a year, depending on the company, and a host of useful related services are often available for an extra charge.