Calendar Year Nonprofits
Fiscal Year Nonprofits
Which Form To File
Extension of Time to File
Late Filing Penalty
Failure To File For 3 Years
State Filing Requirements
Most organizations exempt from income tax under section 501(a) must file an annual information return or submit an annual electronic notice (Form 990-N), depending upon the organization's gross receipts and total assets.
Due Date – The due date depends upon whether the nonprofit’s accounting year is a calendar year or fiscal year. If you are not sure, the fiscal year can be found printed on the upper right section of the IRS Determination Letter, listed as “Accounting Period Ending.”
Calendar Year Nonprofits have a filing due date of May 15th unless that date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a holiday in which case the due date becomes the next business day. Calendar year filers report their activities occurring January 1 through December 31.
Fiscal Year Nonprofits have a due date of the 15th day of the fifth month after the organization’s fiscal year ends. Fiscal years are those that encompass 12 months with the last month being other than December. As an example, if the nonprofit’s fiscal year ends the 31st of July, the filing deadline would be December 15. However, like calendar year filers, if the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a holiday, the due date becomes the next business day.
Which Form To File - Not all nonprofits file the same document. Which one needs to be filed depends upon the nonprofit’s total annual revenue. There are four different versions:
Caution: All returns by exempt organizations are required to be filed electronically.
Form 990-N. Most small tax-exempt organizations that have an annual reporting requirement can satisfy the requirements by submitting Form 990-N, Electronic Notice (e-Postcard). For those tax-exempt organizations that are not Required to File Form 990 or Form 990-EZ, Form 990-N is submitted electronically from the IRS website; there are no paper forms.
Small tax-exempt organizations generally are eligible to file Form 990-N to satisfy their annual reporting requirement if their annual gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less.
An organization eligible to submit Form 990-N can instead choose to file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ to satisfy its annual reporting requirement.
Form 990-EZ. This form is meant for mid-sized nonprofits with annual gross receipts totaling between $50,000 and $200,000. A condensed version of the full Form 990, Form 990-EZ is about four pages long when printed.
Form 990. Only the largest nonprofits with more than $200,000 in annual gross receipts need to complete the full Form 990, which is about 12 pages long.
Form 990-PF. All private foundations are required to use this version, regardless of annual gross receipts. Form 990-PF is 13 pages long and includes information specific to foundations about grantmaking and relationships with other 501(c)(3) organizations.
Extension of Time to File - Tax-exempt organizations that need additional time to file beyond the deadline can request a six-month automatic extension by filing Form 8868, Application for Extension of Time to File an Exempt Organization Return. In situations where tax is due, extending the time for filing a return does not extend the time for paying tax. The IRS encourages organizations requesting an extension to electronically file Form 8868. The form instructions provide a mailing address when not electronically filing. If paper filing, it is strongly advised that a proof of mailing be obtained.
Late Filing Penalty - If an organization fails to file a required return by the due date (including any extensions of time), it must pay a penalty of $20 a day for each day the return is late. The same penalty applies if the organization does not give all the information required on the return or does not give the correct information. In general, the maximum penalty for any return is the lesser of $10,500 or 5 percent of the organization's gross receipts for the year. Penalties for failure to file may be abated if the organization has reasonable cause for the failure to file timely, completely, or accurately.
Failure To File For 3 Years - Organizations that do not file for three consecutive years automatically lose their tax-exempt status. An automatic revocation is effective on the original filing due date of the third annual return or notice.
State Filing Requirements – Each state has individual requirements for tax-exempt filings, some of which require greater detail or additional forms to accompany a 990 filing. State government websites can provide useful information for tax-exempt organizations, including registration requirements for charities, taxation, information for employers, and more. The IRS provides a list of states and their requirements.
Other Tax Filings – Organizations with employees will also have federal and state employment tax filing requirements and some may also have state sales tax obligations. Neither of those topics is covered in this article.
For assistance meeting your nonprofit filings, please contact this office.
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