1. What is IRS Form 990?

Form 990 is an annual reporting return that certain federally tax-exempt organizations must file with the IRS. It provides information on the filing organization’s mission, programs, and finances.

2. What should you do if a § 501(c) organization will not let you see its Form 990 returns?

Write to the IRS Customer Service. Provide the name and address of the organization that refuses to allow public inspection or provide copies of its return, and request that the return be made available for public inspection. The Tax Exempt/Governmental Entities Division of the IRS will contact the organization and arrange a time during which the return may be inspected. If the organization fails to provide the return at the agreed upon time, statutory penalties will start to be assessed.

3. What organizations are required to file Form 990?

  • With some exceptions (see question 4), federally tax-exempt nonprofits that have incomes of more than $25,000
  • All 501(c)(3) private foundations, regardless of income

4. Which organizations are not required to file Form 990?

In general:

  • Nonprofits that have not received tax-exempt status from the IRS
  • Most faith-based organizations
  • Nonprofits with incomes of $25,000 or less
  • Subsidiary organizations

For specific exceptions, see the instructions for Forms 990 and 990-EZ.

5. What is the difference between Form 990, Form 990-EZ, and Form 990-PF?

  • Form 990-PF is the form that all 501(c)(3) private foundations and 4947(a)(1) non-exempt charitable trusts must file; only those types of exempt organizations use Form 990-PF.
  • Form 990-EZ is the “short form” for other 990 filers; exempt nonprofits with incomes of less than $100,000 and total assets of less than $250,000 may file Form 990-EZ, although they are allowed to file Form 990 if they prefer.
  • Form 990 is the “long form” that other 990 filers with incomes of more than $100,000 or assets above $250,000 must file.

6. What is the deadline for filing a 990?

There is no one date on which all Forms 990 must be submitted to the IRS. Instead, a nonprofit’s filing date is determined by the end of its fiscal year (the 12-month period for which the organization plans the use of its funds); each filing organization is required to file “by the 15th day of the 5th month after” its fiscal year ends.

Organizations can also receive up to two 90-day extensions of time to file. Thus, the Form 990 for a nonprofit whose fiscal year ended on December 31, 2008, might not be filed until November 15, 2009.

7. When I looked at a 990, the donors’ names were blacked out.

For most exempt organizations, donors’ names and address of donors listed on Form 990 or 990-EZ are confidential by law. The organizations themselves must also redact information that can identify a donor before making copies of their 990s publicly available.

Only donors to private foundations and Section 527 political organizations that file Form 990 or 990-EZ are public information.

See also…

Tax Law – Forum

Nonprofit Law and Fundraising