May 15 is deadline for nonprofits and churches to file Form 990

Written on May 14, 2019

The IRS is reminding organizations that May 15 is the filing deadline for tax-exempt organizations such as nonprofits and churches to file their Form 990-series information returns.

These types of information returns are normally due on the 15th day of the fifth month after the end of an organization’s accounting period. For organizations operating on a calendar year, the deadline is May 15, 2019.

The IRS generally does not ask organizations for Social Security numbers (SSNs) and cautions filers against providing them on the form. By law, the IRS and most tax-exempt organizations are required to publicly disclose most parts of Form 990 filings, including schedules and attachments. Public release of SSNs and other personally identifiable information about donors, clients or benefactors could give rise to identity theft. More information on this can be found in the “general instructions” section of the Instructions for Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax.

The IRS also urges tax-exempt organizations to file forms electronically, noting the error rate for electronically-filed returns is only 1%. Electronic filing also provides acknowledgement that the IRS has received the return and reduces normal processing time, making compliance with reporting and disclosure requirements easier.

Tax-exempt forms that must be made public by the IRS are clearly marked “Open to Public Inspection” on the top right corner of the first page. These include Form 990, Form 990-EZ, Form 990-PF and others.

Small tax-exempt organizations with average annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less may file an electronic notice called a Form 990-N (e-Postcard). This form requires only a few basic pieces of information. Tax-exempt organizations with average annual gross receipts above $50,000 must file a Form 990 or 990-EZ, depending on their receipts and assets. Private foundations must file Form 990-PF.

Organizations that need additional time to file a Form 990, 990-EZ or 990-PF may obtain an automatic six-month extension. Use Form 8868, Application for Extension of Time to File an Exempt Organization Return, to request an extension. The request must be filed by the due date of the return. Note that no extension is available for filing the Form 990-N (e-Postcard).

By law, organizations that fail to file annual reports for three consecutive years will see their federal tax exemptions automatically revoked as of the due date of the third year for which they are required to file. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that most tax-exempt organizations file annual Form 990-series information returns or notices with the IRS. The law, which went into effect at the beginning of 2007, also imposed a new annual filing requirement for small organizations. Churches and church-related organizations are not required to file annual reports.

The IRS publishes a list of organizations identified as having automatically lost tax-exempt status for failing to file information returns for three consecutive years. Organizations that have had their exemptions automatically revoked can apply for reinstatement of their tax-exempt status and pay the appropriate user fee.

The IRS now offers an enhanced, mobile-friendly search tool, called Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS). TEOS provides easy access to publicly available information about exempt organizations. Users can find key information about the federal tax status and filings of certain tax-exempt organizations, including whether organizations have had their federal tax exemptions automatically revoked and if an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

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