Non-Profit Tax Guide: Getting To Know The Form 990

The Form 990 is a tax document that tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are required to file each year with the IRS. The 990 discloses potential conflicts of interest, regulatory details, governance, compensation of board members and staff, and other details that relate to financial accountability. Filing the 990 correctly and in a timely matter, allows your nonprofit organization to maintain its tax exempt status. Once the 990 is filed, it is posted for the public to see. Websites such as Guidestar.com allow anyone to look at any organization’s Form 990, in order to get a better understanding of the structure and success of the nonprofit organization.

What’s the purpose of the Form 990?
  • Increased transparency and to provide a realistic view of the organization for the IRS and the public
  • Promote tax compliance by accurately reflecting the organization’s operations
  • Allow efficiency in the assessment of risk of noncompliance

The Form 990 has caused dramatic increases in the cost of compliance for nonprofits. At first, this only impacted the larger nonprofits. However, the smaller nonprofits are now feeling the increased cost of the 990.

Who is required to file a Form 990?

Tax-exempt organizations that have gross receipts totaling at least $200,000 or assets worth at least $500,000 must file the Form 990 on an annual basis.

When is the Form 990 Due?

You must file your organization’s 990 by the 15th day of the 5th month after your accounting period ends. For example, say your fiscal year ends on December 31st, then the 990 is due on May 15th the following year.

What are the penalties for not filing a Form 990?

There are many penalties for failing to file the Form 990 properly.  The list of penalties below can help you be prepared in order to avoid them.

  • The Penalty for not filing is: $20 per day, up to a maximum of $10,000 or 5% of revenue.
  • If revenue is greater than $1 million the penalty for not filing is: $100 per day with a maximum fine of $50,000
  • For failure to include information concerning liquidation, dissolution, termination, or substantial contraction: $10 per day, with maximum of $5,000.
  • Your “tax-exempt” status will be revoked if you don’t file for 3 years.
  • Once you receive an IRS notice and don’t respond: $10 per day on the responsible individual, up to a maximum of $5,000.
  • Failure to comply with public disclosure requirements: $20 per day in penalties, up to a maximum of $10,000.
  • There is no maximum penalty for failure to disclose the organization’s exemption application.
How to be prepared for the Form 990?

Being prepared is the best way to handle any tax situation.  Being proactive and having a tax plan minimizes the risk of any last minute tax surprises and allows you to be a little more stress-free when it comes time to file your Form 990 on an annual basis.  Below is a list of suggestions to help you be prepared when filing your Form 990.

  • Make sure you document as much as possible throughout the year for internal purposes.
  • Track as much information as possible from contributors, including amount, name, location, how they contributed, etc.
  • Track the revenue and expense by each event or by function.
  • Tip: Unrelated business tax income is a big issue!  If it’s not part of the core function, it is probably taxable.
  • Consult your CPA for specifics to your organization.  Every nonprofit organization is different and has different issues.

LBA Haynes Strand has handled the Form 990 for many North Carolina based nonprofit organizations, and our team is well versed in the nonprofit industry. Our nonprofit accounting team is ready to help your organization maintain its tax-exempt status and provide the accounting advice you need throughout the year to run a successful nonprofit. Contact us today!