Tax season isn’t over just yet: Monday, May 15, 2017, marks the filing deadline for many tax-exempt organizations.
Information returns for tax-exempt organizations are due on the 15th day of the fifth month after the close of the tax year. Since many organizations use the calendar year as their tax year, that means that May 15 is the deadline for those organizations to file in 2017.
A regular filing requirement used to only apply to organizations which brought in a lot of donations or held significant assets. That changed, however, with the Pension Protection Act of 2006 which made it mandatory for most tax-exempt organizations to file an annual information return or notice with the IRS regardless of how much (or little) income the organization receives. Failure to do so for three consecutive years results in an automatic loss of tax-exempt status (some exceptions for churches and certain church-related organizations apply).
The filing requirements are as follows:
- For tax-exempt organizations with annual gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets of less than $500,000, file form 990-EZ or a form 990-EZ.
- For tax-exempt organizations with annual gross receipts of $200,000 or more or total assets of $500,000 or more, file form 990 (downloads as pdf).
- Organizations classed as private foundations must file a form 990-PF (downloads as pdf) regardless of total receipts.
- Section 527 (political) organizations required to file an annual exempt organization return must file a form 990 or a form 990-EZ.
Small tax-exempt organizations with average annual receipts of $50,000 or less have the option of filing a form 990-N, or the e-Postcard. The e-Postcard only takes a few moments to fill out and requires just a few basic pieces of information:
- Name of the organization (including any alternative names);
- Mailing address for the organization;
- The organization’s EIN (employer identification number);
- Tax year (typically, if you’re filing in 2017, the tax year is 2016);
- Name and address of a principal officer;
- Website, if you have one;
- Confirmation that the organization’s annual gross receipts are $50,000 or less; and
- Confirmation that the organization has terminated or is going out of business, if applicable.
Filing the e-Postcard is free and is only available online here (there is no paper version). If you haven’t completed an e-Postcard before, you’ll need to register online before you can proceed. If you registered last year or if you’ve used the IRS site to access Get Transcript or similar online service for the organization, you’ll just need to log into the site using your user ID.
If you’re still not sure how to proceed, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) created a handy guide for reference (Pub 5248 downloads as a pdf).
If you need more time to file, you can request an extension. There is no extension available for the form 990-N (e-Postcard) but there is also no penalty if you file the form 990-N late.
Failure to file any of the form 990 series (990, 990-EZ or 990-N) for three consecutive years will result in an automatic loss of tax-exempt status. If that happens, your organization will not be eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions and your organization will have to file for reinstatement – even if the organization was not originally required to file an application for exemption. Reinstatement can be time consuming and expensive.
It’s also important to note that parts of forms 990, 990-EZ and form 990-PF must be made available for public inspection. Information on the form 990-N is also available to the public via the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool on the IRS website. That means that you should not include Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of officers, donors, clients or other individuals on the series 990 forms – for privacy reasons, of course.