Will hundreds of thousands of nonprofits disappear on May 16? If they do, it won’t be because cigar-shaped spaceships hover over neighborhoods and use tractor beams to haul community-serving organizations off to an alien planet.
But it’s very possible that the IRS list of U.S.-based charitable organizations will shrink by something like that number shortly after May 15 of this year. That’s because the “Pension Protection Act of 2006” included a requirement that every organization on the list file some sort of report every year and, further, that any organization that misses three years in a row must be removed from the list. There are a lot of groups that haven’t been heard from in three years. May 15 is the deadline for filing with the IRS for any organization whose fiscal year ended 12/31/09. Here’s a New York Times report on the situation.
There are several different forms that organizations of different sizes use for filing with the Internal Revenue Service:
- Nonprofits with less than $25,000 per year in revenues use Form 990-N. This is an “electronic postcard” that asks for just eight items of information. There is no paper version — the 990-N must be filed online. The IRS has a detailed explanation and a link to the webpage for filing the form at http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=169250,00.html. There’s also a link on that page that allows searching for any organization so it’s relatively easy to check and see whether an organization of interest is up to date in its filings.
- Organizations with less $500,000 in revenues and less than $1.25 million in assets for the 2009 tax year can use Form 990-EZ.
- Larger organizations use Form 990.
- And private foundations use Form 990-PF.
The National Center for Charitable Statistics (a division of The Urban Institute) offers a tool for electronic filing From 990-EZ or Form 990. Using the tool is free for organizations with less than $100,000 in revenues with a sliding scale of fees starting at $35 for larger groups. There’s an introduction to online filing and a full explanation of the service at http://efile.form990.org/.
The Form 990 is due to the IRS five months and 15 days after the end of the filing organization’s fiscal year. Groups that started a new fiscal year on New Year’s Day should have their report in by May 15. The sky probably won’t be dark with alien spaceships on that day, but a lot of organizations are in line to wake up the next morning with a tiresome problem. If there’s any chance an organization you care about is going to pass that three-years-without-filing mark, now would be a good time to get going on getting the Form ready to file by the due date.
[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]