May 15 is the deadline for most tax-exempt organizations to file their Form 990-series information returns.
With the deadline fast approaching, the IRS cautions these groups not to include Social Security numbers or other unnecessary personal information on their Form 990. The agency also asks them to consider taking advantage of the speed and convenience of electronic filing.
Form 990-series information returns and notices are due on the 15th day of the fifth month after an organization’s tax-year ends. Many organizations use the calendar year as their tax year, making May 15 the deadline to file for 2016.
Many Organizations Risk Loss of Tax-Exempt Status
By law, organizations that fail to file annual reports for three consecutive years will see their federal tax exemptions automatically revoked as of the due date of the third year they are required to file. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that most tax-exempt organizations file annual Form 990-series information returns or notices with the IRS. The law, which went into effect at the beginning of 2007, also imposed a new annual filing requirement for small organizations. Churches and church-related organizations are not required to file annual reports.
No Social Security Numbers on Forms 990
The IRS generally does not ask organizations for SSNs and cautions filers not to provide them on the Form 990. By law, both the IRS and most tax-exempt organizations are required to publicly disclose most parts of Form 990 filings, including schedules and attachments. Public release of SSNs and other personally identifiable information about donors, clients or benefactors could give rise to identity theft.
The IRS also urges tax-exempt organizations to file forms electronically to reduce the risk of inadvertently including SSNs or other unnecessary personal information. Electronic filing also provides acknowledgement that the IRS has received the return and reduces normal processing time, making compliance with reporting and disclosure requirements easier.
Tax-exempt forms that must be made public by the IRS are clearly marked “Open to Public Inspection” in the top right corner of the first page. These include Form 990, Form 990-EZ, Form 990-PF and others.
What to File
Small tax-exempt organizations with average annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less may file an electronic notice called a Form 990-N (e-Postcard). This form requires only a few basic pieces of information. Tax-exempt organizations with average annual gross receipts above $50,000 must file a Form 990 or 990-EZ, depending on their receipts and assets. Private foundations must file Form 990-PF.
Organizations that need additional time to file a Form 990, 990-EZ or 990-PF may obtain an automatic six-month extension. Use Form 8868, Application for Extension of Time to File an Exempt Organization Return, to request an extension. The request must be filed by the due date of the return. Note that no extension is available for filing the Form 990-N (e-Postcard).
Check Tax-Exempt Status Online
The IRS publishes a list of organizations identified as having automatically lost tax-exempt status for failing to file annual reports for three consecutive years. Organizations that have had their exemptions automatically revoked and wish to have that status reinstated must file an application and pay the appropriate user fee.
The IRS offers an online search tool, Exempt Organizations Select Check, to help users more easily find key information about the federal tax status and filings of certain tax-exempt organizations, including whether organizations have had their federal tax exemptions automatically revoked.