4 tips to help you prepare for the Form 990

Posted April 11, 2019 by Virginia Davidson
preparing for Form 990

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.

Know which version of the Form 990 your organization files

There are different versions of the Form 990, and 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:

  • Organizations with gross receipts less than $50,000 annually can file a simplified version of the Form 990 called the e-postcard, though they may choose to file a full return
  • Organizations with gross receipts of less than $200,000 and gross assets of less than $500,000 need to file Form 990-EZ or Form 990
  • Organizations with gross receipts greater than $200,000 and assets greater than $500,000 need to file Form 990
  • Private foundations file the Form 990-PF

Assemble some key information from your database

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 preparer completes the forms correctly to ensure that your donors’ names and address 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 a 990 report using our software.

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.

Know the deadline for your filing

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 non-profit’s fiscal year matches the calendar year, your deadline is May 15. Find out in advance.

Leave room in your schedule to prepare for the Form 990

Once you’ve determined your organization’s time frame for filing the Form 990, you need to 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.

2 thoughts on “4 tips to help you prepare for the Form 990

  1. Good tips, we could have used this a few weeks back.
    It would be also helpful to show how to run a report that provides gifts equal to or greater than $5000 for last fiscal year plus cumulative giving for 3 years prior to last fiscal year for gifts equal to or greater than $7500. This is a requirement for 990 (not EZ or e-file).
    We had a difficult time trying to pull this data

    1. Hi Helen, Thanks for the suggestion – we will update our Knowledge Base instructions to provide guidance on including total giving for three prior years.

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