Tips for 990 filing; due date fast approaching

The form 990/990-EZ (or a valid request for an extension on Form 8868) is due by the 15th day of the 5th month following the conclusion of an organization’s fiscal year. For organizations that are calendar year organizations (tax year ending on 12/31), that due date is generally May 15th and is fast approaching (May 15th falls on a Sunday this year – so it is instead due by May 16th). With that in mind, I’ve compiled the following information to assist your organization with successful and on-time filing.

Regardless of your exempt status, be aware of what 990-series return your organization is required to file.* File your return (or a request for extension) by the due date.  Make sure that you are not failing to file for three consecutive years.  Organizations that fail to file for three consecutive years will have their exemption automatically revoked. *For exceptions on the annual filing requirement (and thus, those organizations not subject to being revoked for failure to file) see the IRS’ website here.

Before filing, please remember that the Forms 990/990-EZ are much more than a tax return.  These are public relations documents.  They are widely available for public view on Guidestar. The majority of the return is not about the organization’s financials – it is about the organization’s activities and overall operations.  These portions should be reviewed to make sure that the organization is putting its best foot forward (while, of course, still describing its activities and operations completely and accurately).  For a good overview of what board members should know about reviewing a Form 990 – please visit this excellent post. Additionally, the IRS has announced that its audits will now be data-driven. What this means in the practical sense is that the IRS will be looking at the Form 990 and certain responses will be flags for potential audit.  No single flag should cause an organization to be audited, but a combination of responses can.   This means that it is all the more important that organizations ensure their return is reviewed by both the board of directors and a professional well-versed in both tax law and IRS audit priorities.


Organizations with gross receipts that average $50,000 or less are required to file the 990-N (also called the e-postcard) annually.  This requirement applies even to small organizations not required to apply for exemption.

If an organization failed to file their 990-N in previous years they can still do so (without being subject to late filing penalties).  A late-filed 990-N cannot be filed on the IRS’ website, but must instead be filed through an IRS-approved service provider.  Those service providers can be found here.  Form 990-N is typically due on the 15th day of the 5th month after an organization’s fiscal year ends.

The user guide and link for 990-N e-postcard filing can be found here.

Which form should you file?

  • The Form 990-N can be filed by organizations whose gross receipts are normally less than $50,000. Click here regarding how the IRS defines “normally less than $50,000). Click here for other questions about filing the 990-N.
  • The Form 990-EZ can be filed by organizations with gross receipts of $200,000 or less, as long as they also have total assets of less than $500,000.
  • The Form 990 is filed by organizations whose gross receipts are greater than $200,000, or whose total assets are greater than $500,000.

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