Form 990 for nonprofits

July 01, 2021 : Allie Freeland

Nonprofit organizations aim to improve the quality of life for people at the local, state, or even national level. This type of organization comes with specific tax benefits, namely that they are exempt from most federal income taxes. 

However, nonprofits that have tax-exempt status with the IRS do have obligations to the IRS, including filing an annual Form 990 or other 990 series information return. This post will answer all the questions you have, including what is a 990 form, what organizations need to file one, and Form 990 instructions.

What is IRS form 990? 

The IRS form 990 series are informational tax forms that most  nonprofits must file annually. The long form and short forms provide the IRS with information about the organization’s finances and activities, including grants, fundraising fees, program service revenue, and employee salaries. 

The form also requires sharing the organization’s mission statement, the number of voting members in the governing body, and the number of employees. 

The IRS requires all tax-exempt nonprofits to make their three most recent Form 990s public. 

Who files a 990 tax form?

Most nonprofit organizations with IRS tax-exempt status and gross receipts of $200,000 or more or assets of $500,000 or more at the end of the year must file an IRS 990 form annually with the IRS. This form details the money the organization raised through fundraising, grants, and services, how much they paid out to employees, and the assets the organization purchased, sold, or maintained. 

Do all tax-exempt nonprofits need to file an IRS 990 form? 

No, not all nonprofits are required to file a Form 990. According to the IRS, many types of organizations including religious institutions, foreign organizations, and certain government and political organizations are not required to file a Form 990 series return. 

Tax-exempt nonprofit organizations with gross receipts less than $200,000 and assets less than $500,000 at the end of the year may file a ”short” Form 990-EZ. Tax-exempts with gross receipts of $50,000 or less may electronically file a Form 990-N e-postcard.

What happens if you fail to file a Form 990? 

Organizations that fail to file a Form 990 series tax form for three years in a row can lose their tax-exempt status, which can have long-term implications for the organization. If you are not sure if you are required to file a Form 990, get help. Learn about the many ways to file your taxes with H&R Block.  

Form 990 instructions 

A 990-series tax form must be filed annually to maintain your tax-exempt status. Here’s how to file a Form 990: 

  1. Determine which form you must file based on the IRS requirements
  2. If you are required to file the long or short form, gather information about employee pay, fundraising activities, and other income or donations. Documents you may need include W-2s for employees, donation receipts, etc. 
  3. Tax-exempt organizations are generally required to file electronically. Large organizations that file at least 250 returns (such as Form W-2 and Form 1099) are required to file Form 990 electronically. The Form 990-N is always filed electronically.
  4. Complete the form as indicated, paying special attention to the Checklist of Required Schedules, which explains what portion of the form must be filled out based on your organization’s unique circumstances. 
  5. File the form by the 15th day of the fifth month after the end of your organization’s accounting period. For example, if your accounting year ends on December 31, you must file Form 990-N by May 15 of the following year.  

Get help with your 990 tax form

Need help determining how to file a 990 tax form? View H&R Block’s nonprofit tax filing options. 

Whether you make an appointment in person or file online, our team of tax professionals can help file and submit your nonprofit form 990. Make an appointment.

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Allie Freeland

Allie Freeland

Contributing Editor, H&R Block

Allie is the Contributing Editor of the H&R Block blog, Block Talk. She has been a practicing grammar geek since 2007.

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