Filing an IRS nonprofit 990 form is the least favorite pastime of most people, unless you’re a CPA or a certified e-filer for nonprofit organizations like File 990.

But filing on time annually is very much a fact of life for your organization, and it’s crucial to maintaining your tax-exempt status.

Ergo, it’s important for a financial officer to know which version of the 990 form to file, as well as understand the finer details of the filing process.

We understand that sometimes that’s easier said than done.

After all, simply search the IRS website and you’ll see there are countless different tax forms. For the 990 alone, there are four common versions of the form, depending on the size and type of your nonprofit, and each comes with its own set of filing requirements.

The four most common 990 forms include:

  1. The full 990 form
  2. 990-EZ
  3. 990-N (e-Postcard)
  4. 990-PF

The full-length 990 form is required for nonprofits who gross $200,000 or more in total receipts, or total assets of $500,000 or more.

The 990-EZ and 990-N are for nonprofits who grossed less during the year (over $50,000 in total gross receipts and under $50,000 respectively). The 990-PF is for private foundations.

Each form can be submitted electronically the IRS, and you must do so by the 15th day of the 5th month after your accounting period ends. If you need an extension, file a Form 8868 prior to the filing deadline.

File 990 is here to help you sort your tax forms out once and for all. Let’s take a closer look at each of these forms.

Do You Need to File a 990? Make Sure

First, make sure your organization qualifies for tax-exempt status and doesn’t fall under one of the exceptions to 990 filing. Check to ensure the following guidelines match your nonprofit:

  • You’ve registered your organization with the IRS and have filed Form 1023 to apply for tax exemption.
  • Your organization hasn’t lost tax-exempt status due to missed filing or any other reason.
  • You are not an exemption to the filing rule, such as some church-based, government, or state organizations, or part of a group return filed by a parent corporation, among other groups exempt from filing.

Once you’re sure you need to submit a 990, it’s time to determine which form is right for your nonprofit.

The Full 990

Although all variations of the form share the “990” designation, when you see the numeral 990 by itself, this indicates the full version of the form.

As mentioned above, the filing requirements for tax-exempt organizations who file a 990 are that you received:

  • $200,000 or more in total gross receipts, or
  • total assets of $500,000 or more

This version of the form requires a thorough rundown of your financial records for the year. It’s a multi-page deep dive into larger nonprofits, and the information submitted is public record for donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders.

Some of the major elements include: 

  1. an organizational summary
  2. a checklist of required schedules
  3. details of governance, management, and disclosure
  4. compensation paid to officers, directors, employees, etc. 
  5. a full statement of revenue and expenses, balances, reconciliation of net assets, and financial statements and reporting 

Click here for a full explanation of the 990.

The 990-EZ

The 990-EZ is an abbreviated version of the 990. It’s only four pages long. Sounds simple, right?

Not exactly.

The 990-EZ may be short in length, but you still need to do due diligence and prepare detailed financial information for each page.

You file the 990-EZ if your organization received:

  • less than the amounts requiring the full 990 form (mentioned above), but
  • more than $50,000 in total gross receipts

The 990-EZ has five major sections:

  1. Revenue, Expenses, and Changes in Net Assets or Fund Balances
  2. Balance Sheets
  3. Statement of Program Service Accomplishments
  4. List of Officers, Directors, Trustees, and Key Employees
  5. Other Information
  6. Section 501(c)(3) Organizations Only

These sections contain “yes” or “no” questions about the financial and other activities of the organization, as well as sections in which you must list assets and liabilities; names, titles, and compensation amounts of those who work for your organization; and information about accomplishments and contractors.

Click here for a full explanation of the 990-EZ.

The 990-N (e-Postcard)

The 990-N, or e-Postcard version of the 990 form, is the simplest version. 

You file the 990-N if you received:

  • less than or equal to $50,000 in total gross annual receipts

To file this form, you must first set up a 990-N profile with the IRS via their website and then complete the e-Postcard of brief information about your nonprofit. 

This form’s sections include:

  1. taxable year for which you’re filing
  2. confirmation of total gross receipts less than or equal to $50,000 OR if your nonprofit has been terminated/gone out of business
  3. official name of your organization
  4. Employer Identification Number, or EIN
  5. website (if applicable)
  6. name/address of principal officer

As opposed to the other versions of the form, the 990-N can only be submitted electronically, and is a single page in a postcard format, which you file directly via the IRS. 

Click here for a full explanation of the 990-N.

The 990-PF

The 990-PF is strictly for private foundations. You must file one if you meet one of the following criteria, according to the IRS:

  • exempt private foundations
  • taxable private foundations 
  • organizations that agree to private foundation status and whose applications for exempt status are pending on the due date for filing Form 990-PF
  • organizations that claim private foundation status, haven’t yet applied for exempt status, and whose application isn’t yet untimely under section 508(a) for retroactive recognition of exemption
  • organizations that made an election under section 41(e)(6)(D)(iv) 
  • private foundations that are making a section 507(b) termination
  • section 4947(a)(1) nonexempt charitable trusts treated as private foundations

This form is its own beast and atypical of the average charitable organization’s filing requirements. If you’re required to file this form, we recommend you learn more about the 990-PF here.

These are the four most common forms. There are others, including the 990-BL for black lung benefit trusts; the 990-T to report unrelated business income tax; and various other forms for organizations that don’t meet 990 filing requirements.

See a full list of IRS tax-exempt filing forms here.

If you’re filing a 990-EZ or 990-N . . .

Check out File 990’s certified e-filing services, which save you time and effort, and ensure you always file on time. 

Just share some basic information about your nonprofit with us via our secure electronic filing system, and we’ll file for you. 

We’ll also remind you in the future when it’s time to file, and we offer an enterprise suite option for organizations with multiple chapters or components, so each component files correctly and maintains its tax-exempt status.

If you have questions, get in touch with File 990 here

Or get started e-filing your nonprofit tax forms with us today.