So, you think you’re ready to file?
You’ve got your 501(C)(3) established.
You have a solid structure for your organization.
And you’re operating efficiently while keeping excellent financial records.
You’re killing it.
However, there’s one more piece of the puzzle to take on, and it’s the most important:
You need to file the IRS form 990—and the process isn’t so easy.
In fact, for many nonprofit organizations, the annual filing of IRS form 990 is one of the most stressful times of the year—with the future of the organization’s tax-exempt status directly on the line.
With reams and reams of federal tax code to sift through, and the chance that your organization’s filing application can be rejected and returned over something as slight as an incomplete section, the importance of getting the application right the first time is paramount.
So, let’s not mess around here.
If you want to get your filing right the FIRST TIME, you’re going to need a few helpful resources to guide you every step of the way.
Here are the top four resources you’ll need to get your IRS Form 990 filing started.
1. Form 990 Overview Course
We listed this resource first because, simply put, it’s one of the best resources available on the topic.
The Form 990 Overview Course is a video series that details everything you need to know about your IRS Form 990 filing, and the use of the word “course” isn’t a misnomer; this is a thorough educational class, that will take you some time to go through completely.
Thankfully, the IRS has realized that the average person—everyone but accountants, tax attorneys, and IRS employees, in this case—doesn’t have the patience or the aptitude to read through page after page of tax code, and they’ve converted this information into a more accessible video format.
Although the video series can feel as dry and aged as a vintage wine, the information is straightforward and helpful, so we encourage you to sit through and take notes if necessary.
Remember, the purpose of these resources is to expand your knowledge on IRS Form 990 filing and best prepare you for filing.
If you don’t have time to watch the video, you can always check out their pdf transcript featured here.
Here’s what you can expect to learn from the course:
- the purpose of the Form 990 tax-filing
- which version of the form you’ll need to file
- how to file your IRS Form 990 electronically
- where to send your physical form, deadlines, and extensions
- the information that will be requested and some time-saving tips to get ahead
Now that we’ve covered the basics of Form 990, let’s move on to charitable contributions…
2. Publication 526 – Charitable Contributions Form
How are you planning to record your charitable donations for the year?
And more importantly, what do you need to include?
These questions are critical to your application process because they can affect what’s included within your gross receipts for the year.
Here’s why that number is important…
Your gross receipts determine your filing category.
To learn what kind of donations will count towards your total gross receipts, you’ll need the IRS’s Charitable Contributions Form.
As a reminder, there are three versions of the IRS Form 990: the Form 990-N, Form 990-EZ, and Form 990, which differ depending on the size and success of your organization
Here’s how it breaks down:
- Filed by organizations with gross receipts less than or equal to $50,000
- Must be filed digitally.
- Filed by organizations with gross receipts less than $200,000 and total assets less than $500,000.
- Can be filed physically or digitally.
- Filed by organizations with gross receipts more than or equal to $200,000 or total assets more than or equal to $500,000.
- Can be filed physically or digitally.
As a document designed to explain which types of donations are tax-deductible, this resource serves as an excellent guide for 501(C)(3)s and their donors to gain a better understanding of charitable donations—whether they’re received or given.
Filing the wrong form by mistake can be costly. So, review the charitable contributions form thoroughly to get a better grasp of what you must accurately report.
Taking the time to properly assess your charitable contributions and gross receipts will make the process of filing the IRS form 990 smoother, and the financial practices of your organization more transparent and efficient.
3. Current Form 990 Series – Forms and Instructions
The Current Form 990 Series – Forms and Instructions is a directory list linking to other resources involved in the 990 filing process, and as a result, it’s one of the most important items on this list.
One of the biggest challenges to filing the IRS form 990 is wading through the plethora of tax material related to your filing.
In short, the process of finding the information you’re looking for can be overwhelming. Further still, when you do find the information related to your filing, knowing how to proceed in the application process is a different story entirely.
As a result, the IRS created the Current Form 990 Series – Forms and Instructions which answered one simple question:
How do I file?
Aside from providing instructions on the filing process (one for each version of the form), the directory list also features the list of schedules—requests for supplementary information—which provide pdf links to explanations and instructions for each schedule.
Here’s the complete list of the page’s forms and schedules:
Form 990-N – User Guide for Form 990-N
Form 990-EZ – Instructions for Form 990-EZ
Form 990-PF – Instructions for Form 990-PF
Form 990 – Instructions for Form 990
Schedule A – Public Charity Status and Public Support
Schedule B – Schedule of Contributors (instructions included in schedule)
Schedule C – Political Campaign and Lobbying Activities
Schedule D – Supplemental Financial Statements
Schedule E – Schools (instructions included in schedule)
Schedule F – Statement of Activities Outside the United States
Schedule G – Supplemental Information Regarding Fundraising or Gaming Activities
Schedule H – Hospitals
Schedule I – Supplemental Information on Grants and Other Assistance to Organizations, Governments, and Individuals in the United States (instructions included in schedule)
Schedule J – Compensation Information
Schedule K – Supplemental Information on Tax-Exempt Bonds
Schedule L – Transactions with Interested Persons
Schedule M – Non-Cash Contributions (instructions included in schedule)
Schedule N – Liquidation, Termination, Dissolution, or Significant Disposition of Assets (instructions included in schedule)
Schedule O – Supplemental Information to Form 990 (instructions included in schedule)
Schedule R – Related Organizations and Unrelated Partnerships
So, be sure to bookmark this link immediately. It’ll be an invaluable reference for you—and your organization—when it’s time to file.
4. Publication 4220 – Applying for 501(C)(3) Tax-Exempt Status
Although we’ve explained the process of creating a 501(C)(3) before, it’s an important concept to reexamine.
Because the IRS Form 990 filing process first begins with the 501(c)(3).
If you’re still in the creation phase of your 501(C)(3), the best available resource for your organization will be Publication 4220 – Applying for 501(C)(3) Tax-Exempt Status.
In the document, four primary questions are answered that will help you in your process of forming your 501(C)(3).
These questions are:
- Why apply for 501(C)(3) tax-exempt status?
- Who is eligible for 501(C)(3) status?
- What responsibilities accompany 501(C)(3) status?
- How do you apply for 501(C)(3) status?
By using this document, not only will you be able to navigate the creation of your 501(C)(3) but you’ll also learn some helpful tips to keep your organization in good financial and tax-exempt standing.
The Next Steps
Although filing the IRS form 990 can be a complicated and tedious process, it doesn’t have to be. By working with a licensed and professional filing consultant, you can significantly increase the speed in which your filing is submitted, accepted, and approved.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can save more time this tax-season
Click here to contact us directly.