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Most federally tax-exempt organizations are required to file an annual tax return with the Internal Revenue Service called the Form 990. If you’re a development officer for a nonprofit, it’s unlikely that the responsibility for completing the Form 990 falls to you. But, it’s good to know the basics and be prepared to provide certain information that your tax preparer will need.
There are different versions of the Form 990. Your organization determines which version it needs to fill out based on its financial activity. The IRS publishes its thresholds here, but here’s an overview:
Some versions of the Form 990 require a list of all donors who gave $5,000 or more to your organization in the past year. (Note: Be sure that your tax preparer completes forms correctly to ensure that your donors’ names and addresses are not publicly disclosed. See IRS guidance.) If you’re using Little Green Light as your donor management system, we offer instructions on how to run that report here. It’s a good idea to have this list prepared in advance so your tax preparer isn’t waiting on it. You can also check with them to see if they’re relying on you for any other required information.
The date of April 15 tends to loom large when we think of tax deadlines, but the deadlines are different for the 990. The deadline is the 15th day of the fifth month following the end of your fiscal year. In other words, if your nonprofit’s fiscal year matches the calendar year, your deadline is May 15. Find out in advance by reviewing this table of deadlines from the IRS, which also lists the extension deadline for each type of 990. If you may need to file for an extension, check out the procedures here.
Once you’ve determined your organization’s time frame for filing the Form 990, make sure you leave time in your schedule to help gather information for the 990. Doing so will help you avoid stress if and when unexpected questions arise, and will make the most of your tax preparer’s time.
The Form 990 is a required annual filing for most organizations, which gives you the opportunity to be prepared when your organization’s deadline comes around. Making room for it in your workplan and understanding what information you’ll need to provide will prevent the Form 990 from becoming an annual headache for you.
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