Nonprofit organizations must file Form 990 (or the shorter 990-EZ) annually to keep their tax-exempt position with the Internal Revenue Service. This is an information return, mandated by Section 6033 of the Internal Revenue Code, that details key facts about the nonprofit and its activities and ensures compliance with all applicable regulations.
All applicable forms must be filed annually by the 15th day of the fifth month after the nonprofit's tax year. This includes Forms 990 and 990-EZ, Schedule A (for information such as compensation and independent-contractor expenses) and Form 990-T for organizations with more than $1,000 in gross income from a sideline business. Most nonprofits adhere to a calendar year, so the deadline is typically May 15 or the next business day following a weekend or holiday.
The Internal Revenue Service allows nonprofit organizations to qualify for an automatic extension of up to three months for all paperwork due. This falls under Form 8868, the Application for Extension of Time to File an Exempt Organization Return. Nonprofits should use this privilege sparingly, because its ease and automatic nature may lead to a paperwork crunch when the new deadline is reached.
In cases of hardship or circumstances beyond its control, the nonprofit may apply for a further extension of three additional months. Form 8868 is once again used, with Part II fully filled out in this case. The automatic extension must already have been requested and acceptance of this new application is not assured. The organization must be able to prove the necessity of further delay.
No Due Date
Nonprofit organizations are not obligated to file either Form 990 or 990-EZ if they did not receive more than $25,000 in any given tax year. Form 990's instructions detail the parameters and applicable exemptions to meet this gross-receipts test. Even if not required to file, such organizations may want to do so anyway -- for practice, credibility and donor awareness.
Robert Rimm graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and founded 88keys.com to provide education, writing and communications services for clients within the nonprofit, arts and education communities in the United States, Europe and Russia. His key interests include art and culture, social entrepreneurship, education, the environment and human rights. He is fluent in French and Russian, and is a widely published author.