May 15 is the filing deadline for tax-exempt organizations on calendar fiscal years to file IRS Forms 990 (990, 990-EZ, 990-N). For all others, the deadline is 5.5 months after the close of the fiscal year; thus an organization with a September 30 fiscal year end would have a deadline of February 15.
All tax-exempt organizations must file with IRS annually or risk loss of tax-exempt status. This includes SMALL organizations–even those who were not required to apply to IRS for recognition of tax-exempt status. In the past, small organizations (those with gross receipts of less than $5,000 annually) were not required to apply to IRS to be recognized as tax-exempt under 501(c) of the Interal Revenue Code, and they were not required to file annual reports (Forms 990) with IRS. However, as a result of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, that has changed. Now, ALL tax-exempt organizations must file annually with IRS.
Small organizations–those with gross receipts up to $50,000 annually–may file the IRS Form 990-N (electronic postcard). This is an ultra-simple filing that is completed entirely online and will require only a few minutes to complete. There is no filing fee. Go here for more information.
Tax-exempt organizations with gross receipts greater than $50,000, or those who must provide more detail or need a paper form, can file either the 990-EZ or the full 990.
If your organization’s application for recognition of exemption (IRS Form 1023 or 1024) has been pending with the IRS for some time, and/or you are a new organization nearing three years since incorporation, your organization should file a Form 990-EZ. Regardless of the size of the organization, a 990-EZ (that is, a “hard copy” paper form) is required because the 990-N will not work for you–you are not yet “in the system” and cannot file electronically. Making this filing should prevent your application from being added to IRS’s automatic revocation “stack” with the resultant increased timeline that would cause.
Failure to file these annual returns to IRS for three consecutive years results in automatic revocation of tax-exempt status–even for organizations that have no requirement to apply for recognition as exempt. So even if your organization is TINY, you must file!
And don’t forget to discuss your filing with your Board of Directors. And that’s the subject of another post!