posted November 11, 2015

Form 990 Disclosures and Availability

by Aaron Van Winkle, Senior Associate

As we near the end of the calendar year, many individuals and businesses are looking to contribute to tax-exempt entities. While one consideration for these potential donors will certainly be an entity’s cause and mission, they will also be evaluating the financial stability of your non-profit. The IRS Form 990 is a simple way for these interested parties to quickly analyze an exempt organization’s finances from year to year.

The 990 is an IRS informational form which includes relevant information such as revenues, expenses, and key employee information for tax exempt organizations. The Form 990 is due the 15th day of the 5th month after the end of the organization’s tax year (e.g., May 15 for NPOs reporting on a calendar year or November 15 for NPOs with a June 30 fiscal year end). You may receive questions regarding obtaining your organization’s 990 including where and how to obtain the information. To foster transparency, the IRS has provided some guidance for Form 990 disclosure, availability, and penalties. This article briefly reviews these requirements.

Form 990 disclosure and availability

Exempt organizations should be familiar with the following IRS guidelines regarding requests for documents:

  • A non-profit’s annual informational returns (e.g., Form 990, Form 990-EZ), as well as applications for exemption, must be made available for public inspection.Please note that tax-exempt organizations should also ensure the availability of any schedules and attachments that are filed with the Form 990.
  • All returns should be available for a three-year period.The end date of this period is calculated from the due date of the return (including any extension of time for filing) or the date of filing, whichever is later.
  • Your organization must provide copies of returns and applications to individuals who request them. You should provide these copies immediately in the case of in-person requests and within 30 days in the case of written requests.
  • A non-profit may charge requestors a “reasonable” copying fee plus actual postage, if applicable.Your organization may also refuse the request if a fee has been charged and the requestor does not pay within 30 days.
  • Your organization may also satisfy the requirements for providing copies of returns by making the documents publicly available online (e.g., on the organization’s website or a database site such as www.guidestar.org), but non-profits should ensure that the paper copies of forms are also available for in-person inspections.
  • The requirement to make the information “widely available” does not apply to the Form 990-T, the form for unrelated business tax income. However, your organization must be ready to make the information available upon request.

Availability and failure to file penalties

If an organization does not make available the information from a requesting party, that party may submit a complaint to the IRS. Failure on the organization’s part to follow the filing requirements may result in monetary fines. Entities could be fined from $20 a day up to $100 a day for late filing violations depending on the gross receipts of the entity and if there is reasonable cause for the late filing.

References

Further information on the reporting requirements for tax-exempt organizations can be found at the IRS page for charities & non-profits.


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