Form 990

This is the main IRS tax form for nonprofits, equivalent to a 1040 for your business. It seems to become more complicated every year, so the board of an organization required to file a full 990 can look forward to reviewing a good thirty to forty pages of tax information come four and a half months after fiscal year end. There are different versions of the 990, just as there are of the 1040. To be specific:

  • Organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less can get away with filing the teeny-tiny “electronic postcard” version, Form 990-N.
  • Organizations with gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets of less than $500,000 can file Form 990-EZ.
  • Organizations with gross receipts over $200,000 and total assets over $500,000 must file the full Form 990.

See full instructions here. Even if you qualify to escape with the postcard, you may want to consider filing the 990-EZ. Funders might ask for it, and you want to make sure your books are in good nick anyway, right? Most importantly, the Massachusetts Form PC requires you to attach your 990—and Massachusetts does not accept the postcard.1

In practice, half the reason for having an audit is to get your Forms 990 and PC done by CPAs so that you don’t risk messing them up yourself. Here’s a good overview of the 990.

Late on preparing the 990? You can get an automatic 3-month extension by filing Form 8868. You can also get a second 3-month extension after that, with the same form, but you have to show cause.

For links to the 990 and its various instructions and schedules, go here. And here’s a neat post on Five Things You May Not Know about this form.


1 I will note, though, that I have been told by an audit firm that “there is no advantage to filing the Form 990-EZ with the IRS.  You are fulfilling the Organization’s filing requirement by filing the Form 990-N . . . The Form 990-EZ and Form PC will be filed with the AG per their filing requirements and will be available for public inspection on their website.”

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