No they can not require a membership fee to join IF they are a non-profit booster club and are going to be tax-exempt. If they are not a non-profit and plan on paying taxes on their income then they can do what they want. Yes boosters have to file taxes every year too on their income The form we used was a form 990 EZ because we made under a certain amount.
Just a clarification too splitting the funds equally doesn't always mean that the dollar value is equal. It could mean too that the benifits received are equal. For example if the boosters pay for the highest level of competion in all levels that would mean that the L4 - L6 get states paid for the L8 gets Regionals Paid for, and the L9 and L10 get the Nationals paid for. There is a dollar valule difference in these fees but the benifit is the same the highest competion meet is paid for.
Or if there is a judges clinic for a judge to come in and evaluate each level usually it has been my experience that the charge for the compulsory levels has been cheaper than the Optional levels. So again the actual cost is different but the benifit is equal.
Our boosters were a mess too and in the past year finally organized and are awaiting our 501 C3 non-profit certification so we can go for grant money. (very long process) We hired a company to help us get the by-laws, parent handbook, reimbursment forms, the state non-profit applications, and the 501c3 application completed for us.
And that was where we learned the $ amount doesn't have to be equal but the benifits should be similar. It can also be the dollar value is the same for some expenses that are just different. For example the optional girls we purchased all new grips
(about $400) the compulsory girls don't get grips so they got their state flowers and a pizza after the meet to celebrate that cost a total of about ($400).
It can also mean for example any gymnast that makes it to regionals or nationals will have those meet fees paid by the boosters. Now this means in reality that L8 - L10 are getting those meet fees paid but the compulsories don't get any meet fees paid. It becomes sort of a if you stay with gymnastics to that level then you will get that same benifit at that time. So that benifit is available to all gymnast when they hit that level.
This document from the IRS is a great read. It talks about being tax exempt - if you go to page 3 or 4 in part 3 they have examples of 2 booster clubs that sound similar but one will be tax exempt where the other can not be.
There is a site too called Parent Boosters USA Parent Booster USA - Parent Booster USA
It has ALOT of info on the right way to run a booster club. You can join them to use their 501c3 but when we looked into it, it made more sense for us to get our own.
These documents from them make good reading for boosters operations
Parent Booster USA - Basic Booster Club Guidelines
Parent Booster USA - *NEW* Get Legal and Get Legal, Stay Legal Memberships
http://www.parentbooster.org/Resources/Documents/Guidelines and Financial Practices
[Web site public version].pdf