Going Legit: Creating the All Hands Association

After over a year of filling out forms and holding meetings with accountants, we’ve finally done it: All Hands Taiwan is now officially a legally-recognized non-profit association! 

Some might ask why All Hands needs to be a formal association. Well, this is a huge step for All Hands Taiwan and its mission. Now that we have a legal entity in place, we can continue to expand the services that we offer to job seekers, students, freelancers, entrepreneurs, companies and other like-minded organizations. 

If you’re interested to learn what it took to create the All Hands Association, read on. 

The Right Accountant is Crucial

It took us over a year to finalize our association, when it really shouldn’t take longer than six months. So what happened? It came down to the accountant we chose. We realized early on that it was crucial to have a good accountant, so we chose one who came highly recommended from friends who’ve opened up their own companies. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any actual experience in setting up an association, but told us he could do it. We spent months filling out all the forms and sent them along to him. Weeks went by without any meaningful response. Finally, when pressed for answers, the accountant owned up to the fact that he didn’t know what he was doing and was stumped.

This led to a hunt for a more qualified accountant, another round of payments, and another round of forms. It also resulted in considerable delay getting our association off the ground.

Choose a Home for Your Organization

After we found a more capable team of accountants, the first thing they asked was, “Where do you want to incorporate? In all of Taiwan, or just Taipei?”

Incorporating as a city-based association in Taipei was a much easier process, and that’s the option we chose. By setting up in Taipei, we would only need to prove we had members in the Taipei area (which was still a huge effort in paperwork collection).

To incorporate as a nationwide association, you would have to prove that you have members all over Taiwan.  If you’re considering founding an association, we strongly recommend that you talk to some people who have done it before to get an understanding of the membership workloads, because they are considerable. (For more on this, keep reading.)

Bring Your Crew

Everyone’s all ears at the first All Hands members meeting

Once we established our location, the next step was to gather signatures of our members. Since All Hands didn’t really have a membership system, we had to make one. We decided to gather close friends and some of the people who consistently showed up at our events and invite them to become our members. 

In order to legally establish an association in Taipei, you need to have at least 30 members willing to sign membership forms who are in one of the following situations:

A) Taiwanese and have their household registration in Taipei,
B) Foreigners who have an ARC that shows that they live in Taipei, or
C) Taiwanese or Foreigners who don’t live in Taipei but work there (which can be proven with a letter from their employer).

If a member lives in Taipei or has their household registration in Taipei, things are pretty easy; their address is printed on their Taiwanese ID, so that can be shown as proof of residence. However, if a member only works in Taipei, then they need to ask their boss to sign a letter affirming their employment within Taipei. Each member also had to sign a membership form and provide photos of their ID cards.

On top of collecting the paperwork above, we had to require these members to attend two official meetings and sign-in at each meeting. 

We organized two catered events where we explained our plans for the association to our new members and collected their signatures. At least 50% of the membership needed to attend each meeting, so it was nerve-wracking, to say the least, to get busy young professionals in Taipei to adjust their schedules for us. 

Another key issue is that after its initial founding, a Taipei association needs to continue to hold two general member meetings every six months. That means we will be running a similar set of meetings again very soon to update members on our progress. With a majority of our members being foreigners, who may head home to their original countries, getting the same people in the room after six months may prove to be a challenge. But, that’s an issue for another time.

In addition to compiling the association membership, the organization must select a group of board members and a group of audit committee members. The board is meant to be an advisory committee that can offer guidance and decision making support to the organization and its initiatives, while the audit committee supervises the board and ensures the organization and its finances are in good standing.

If all of this sounds a bit complicated, you can peruse the relevant documentation in Chinese, or ask your accountant to help you get set up. 

When setting up a new association, delightful forms like these are in your future

Pay the Man

With our government filings in order, it was finally time to pay our hard working accountant, which amounted to NT $120,000 for the set up and registration process.  One other fee to consider is your mailing address. To set up an organization, you need to register a mailing address. If you have an office, you’re already set. However, as All Hands is fully remote, we elected to pay around NT $3,000 / month to rent some very cheap office space from some close friends.

In the near future, when we start having events again, we will also need to put out for monthly accounting services, which will probably cost around NT $ 3,000 – NT $ 4,000 per month.

All told, we’ve paid NT $ 120,000 + NT $ 36,000 = NT $ 156,000 so far for our first year of administrivia; your fees may vary. 

Adventures in Taiwanese Banking

One of the main reasons that we opened the association was so that we could accept donations from corporate partners and reduce the obstacles to working with governmental orgs and other NGOs, and so our logical next step entailed opening a bank account. There’s no legal requirement regulating which bank an association must choose, but as E. Sun Bank has an English-friendly website, and is the only bank that Paypal funds can be transferred to in Taiwan, it was a no-brainer for us. With newly-minted association documents and chop seals in hand, we went to our local E.Sun Bank branch to open the association bank account. Two hours later, we found out that the bank account MUST be opened at the bank branch closest to your association office address. Our office happens to be in Neihu. A not-so-quick trip from Xindian to Neihu later, we emerged triumphant, with our new bank books in hand. Please note that this is a fairly minor consideration, as later you can bank at any branch, but when setting up your accounts, be prepared to visit the branch nearest your registered address.

Welcome to the Goody Room

Now that we finally had our association legally established, we could apply for deals that are only available to non-profits. A lot of deals with foreign tech companies can be found via TechSoup Taiwan. Create a profile, upload your association founding documents, and after verification by TechSoup Taiwan, you can register to get Slack Pro, Google Workspace, and other services for free for your org, while also gaining access to discount offers from Zoom and other services. While this was not a motivation for setting up the association, it was certainly nice to get some goodies back for all the money we put into getting set up.

The Future of All Hands 

With our association freshly minted, we’re excited about our future; we’re now better able to serve the people we aim to help, while also being on more solid financial footing. We’re also excited to understand how we can use our association to better help our community. 

So comment below with ideas for what you want to see from All Hands in the coming year!

This article was reviewed by our very capable accountants at Del Sol CPA & Associates 德碩會計師事務所.

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