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IRS: Filing Requirements

A brief description from the IRS of the annual filing and disclosure requirements for charitable organizations.

Generally, tax-exempt organizations must file an annual information return. Tax-exempt organizations that have annual gross receipts not normally in excess of $25,000 are not required to file the annual information return. In addition, churches and certain religious organizations, certain state and local instrumentalities, and other organizations are excepted from the annual return filing requirement. For more information, download Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization.

Tax-exempt organizations, other than private foundations, must file Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax, or Form 990-EZ, Short Form Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. The Form 990-EZ is designed for use by small tax-exempt organizations and nonexempt charitable trusts. An organization may file Form 990-EZ, instead of Form 990, only if (1) its gross receipts during the year were less than $100,000, and (2) its total assets (line 25, Column (B) of Form 990-EZ) at the end of the year were less than $250,000. If your organization fails to meet either of these conditions, you cannot file Form 990-EZ. Instead you must file Form 990. All private foundations exempt under §501(c)(3) must file Form 990-PF, Return of Private Foundation.

Form 990, Form 990-EZ, or Form 990-PF must be filed by the 15th day of the 5th month after the end of your organization's accounting period. The instructions for these forms indicate the Service Center to which they must be sent.

A tax-exempt organization that fails to file a required return is subject to a penalty of $20 a day for each day the failure continues. The same penalty will apply if the organization fails to give correct and complete information or required information on its return. The maximum penalty for any one return is the lesser of $10,000 or 5 percent of the organization's gross receipts for the year. If the organization has gross receipts in excess of $1,000,000, the penalties are increased to $100 per day with a maximum penalty of $50,000.

Even though an organization is recognized as tax exempt, it still may be liable for tax on its unrelated business income. An exempt organization that has $1,000 or more gross income from an unrelated business must file Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return. The obligation to file Form 990-T is in addition to the obligation to file the annual information return. Tax-exempt organizations must make quarterly payments of estimated tax on unrelated business income. An organization must make estimated tax payments if it expects its tax for the year to be $500 or more. The Form 990-T of a tax-exempt organization must be filed by the 15th day of the 5th month after the tax year ends.

An employees' trust must file Form 990-T by the 15th day of the 4th month after its tax year ends. A tax-exempt organization's Form 990-T is not available for public inspection. For additional information, download Publication 598, Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations.

Every employer, including a tax-exempt organization, who pays wages to employees is responsible for withholding, depositing, paying, and reporting federal income tax, social security taxes (FICA), and federal unemployment tax (FUTA) for such wage payments, unless that employer is specifically excepted by statute from such requirements or if the taxes are clearly inapplicable. For more information, download Publication 15, Circular E, Employer's Tax Guide, Publication 15-A, Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide, Form 940, Employer's Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return and Form 941, Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

Tax-exempt organizations must make their last three annual information returns and their approved application for recognition of exemption with all supporting documents available for public inspection. Pursuant to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights 2, the organization is required to provide copies of these documents upon request without charge (other than a reasonable fee for reproduction and copying costs). Penalties are provided for failure to comply with these requirements. For more information, see our frequently asked questions, the final regulations published in Internal Revenue Bulletin 1999-17.
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