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Publication 557

Chapter 2
Filing Requirements and Required Disclosures(p9)


Most exempt organizations (including private foundations) must file various returns and reports at some time during (or following the close of) their accounting period.


Useful items

You may want to see:

 15 Circular E, Employer's Tax Guide
 15-A Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide
 15-B Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits
 598 Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations
Form (and Instructions)
 941: Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return
 990: Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax
 990-EZ: Short Form Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax
 Schedule A (Form 990 or 990-EZ): Public Charity Status and Public Support
 Schedule B (Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF): Schedule of Contributors
 Schedule C (Form 990 or 990-EZ): Political Campaign and Lobbying Activities
 Schedule D (Form 990): Supplemental Financial Statements
 Schedule E (Form 990 or 990-EZ): Schools
 Schedule F (Form 990) : Statement of Activities Outside the United States
 Schedule G (Form 990 or 990-EZ): Supplemental Information Regarding Fundraising or Gaming Activities
 Schedule H (Form 990): Hospitals
 Schedule I (Form 990): Grants and Other Assistance to Organizations, Governments, and Individuals in the United States
 Schedule J (Form 990): Compensation Information
 Schedule K (Form 990): Supplemental Information on Tax-Exempt Bonds
 Schedule L (Form 990 or 990-EZ): Transactions With Interested Persons
 Schedule M (Form 990): Noncash Contributions
 Schedule N (Form 990 or 990-EZ): Liquidation, Termination, Dissolution, or Significant Disposition of Assets
 Schedule O (Form 990 or 990-EZ): Supplemental Information to Form 990
 Schedule R (Form 990): Related Organizations and Unrelated Partnerships
 990-PF: Return of Private Foundation or Section 4947(a)(1) Nonexempt Charitable Trust Treated as a Private Foundation
 990-BL: Information and Initial Excise Tax Return for Black Lung Benefit Trusts and Certain Related Persons
 990-T: Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return
 990-W: Estimated Tax on Unrelated Business Taxable Income for Tax-Exempt Organizations
 1120-POL: U.S. Income Tax Return for Certain Political Organizations
 4720: Return of Certain Excise Taxes Under Chapters 41 and 42 of the Internal Revenue Code
 5768: Election/Revocation of Election by an Eligible Section 501(c)(3) Organization To Make Expenditures To Influence Legislation
 6069: Return of Excise Tax on Excess Contributions to Black Lung Benefit Trust Under Section 4953 and Computation of Section 192 Deduction
 7004: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns
 8274: Certification by Churches and Qualified Church-Controlled Organizations Electing Exemption from Employer Social Security and Medicare Taxes
 8282: Donee Information Return
 8300: Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business
 8453-X: Political Organization Declaration for Electronic Filing of Notice of Section 527 Status
 8822-B: Change of Address or Responsible Party-Business
 8868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File an Exempt Organization Return
 8870: Information Return for Transfers Associated with Certain Personal Benefits Contracts
 8871: Political Organization Notice of Section 527 Status
 8872: Political Organization Report of Contributions and Expenditures
 8886-T: Disclosure by Tax-Exempt Entity Regarding Prohibited Tax Shelter Transaction
 8899: Notice of Income from Donated Intellectual Property
 8940: Request for Miscellaneous Determination
 8976: Notice of Intent to Operate Under Section 501(c)(4)
See chapter 6 for information about getting these publications and forms.

Annual Information Returns(p9)

Every organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(a) must file an Annual Exempt Organization Return except:
  1. A church, an interchurch organization of local units of a church, a convention or association of churches,
  2. An integrated auxiliary of a church,
  3. A church-affiliated organization that is exclusively engaged in managing funds or maintaining retirement programs,
  4. A school below college level affiliated with a church or operated by a religious order,
  5. Church-affiliated mission societies if more than half of their activities are conducted in, or are directed at persons in, foreign countries,
  6. An exclusively religious activity of any religious order,
  7. A state institution, the income of which is excluded from gross income under section 115,
  8. A corporation described in section 501(c)(1) that is organized under an Act of Congress, an instrumentality of the United States, and is exempt from Federal income taxes,
  9. A stock bonus, pension, or profit-sharing trust that qualifies under section 401 (required to file Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan),
  10. A religious or apostolic organization described in section 501(d) (required to file Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income),
  11. A governmental unit or an affiliate of a governmental unit that meets the requirements of Rev. Proc. 95-48, 1995-2 C.B. 418,,
  12. A private foundation described in section 501(c)(3) and exempt under section 501(a) (required to file Form 990-PF, Return of Private Foundation),
  13. A political organization that is a state or local committee of a political party, a political committee of a state or local candidate, a caucus or association of state or local officials, or required to report under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 as a political committee,
  14. An exempt organization (other than a private foundation) that normally has annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less (required to file Form 990-N, Electronic Notice), or
  15. A foreign organization, or an organization located in a U.S. possession, that normally has annual gross receipts from sources within the United States of $50,000 or less.

Supporting Organization Annual Information Return(p10)

For tax years ending after August 17, 2006, all section 509(a)(3) supporting organizations are required to file Form 990 or 990-EZ with the IRS regardless of the organization's gross receipts, unless it qualifies as one of the following:
  1. An integrated auxiliary of a church;
  2. The exclusively religious activities of a religious order; or
  3. An organization, the gross receipts of which are normally not more than $5,000, that supports a section 509(a)(3) religious order.
If the organization is described in item (3) above, then it must submit Form 990-N (e-Postcard) unless it voluntarily files Form 990 or 990-EZ.
On its annual information return, at Part I, Schedule A (Form 990 or 990-EZ) a supporting organization must:

Annual Electronic Filing Requirement for Small Tax-Exempt Organizations(p10)

Small tax-exempt organizations with annual gross receipts normally $50,000 or less must submit Form 990-N, Electronic Notice (e-Postcard) for Tax-Exempt Organizations Not Required to File Form 990 or 990-EZ, with the IRS each year, if they choose not to file a Form 990 or 990-EZ. Form 990-N requires the following information:
Form 990-N is due by the 15th day of the fifth month after the close of the tax year. For tax years beginning after December 31, 2006, any organization that fails to meet its annual reporting requirement for 3 consecutive years will automatically lose its tax-exempt status. To regain its exempt status an organization will have to reapply for recognition as a tax-exempt organization.
This filing requirement doesn't apply to:

Forms 990 and 990-EZ(p10)

Exempt organizations, other than private foundations, must file their annual information returns on Form 990 or 990-EZ, unless excepted from filing or allowed to submit Form 990-N, described earlier.
Generally, political organizations with gross receipts of $25,000 ($100,000 for a qualified state or local political organization (QSLPO)) or more for the tax year are required to file Form 990 or 990-EZ unless specifically excepted from filing the annual return. The following political organizations aren't required to file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ.

Form 990-EZ.(p10)

This is a shortened version of Form 990. Form 990-EZ is designed for use by small exempt organizations and nonexempt charitable trusts.
An organization can file either Form 990 or 990-EZ if it satisfies both of the following:
  1. Its gross receipts during the year are less than $200,000.
  2. Its total assets (line 25, column (B) of Form 990-EZ) at the end of the year are less than $500,000.
If your organization doesn't satisfy both of these conditions, you can't file Form 990-EZ. Instead, you must file Form 990.
Group return.(p10)
A group return on Form 990 may be filed by a central, parent, or like organization for two or more local organizations, none of which is a private foundation. This return is in addition to the central organization's separate annual return if it must file a return. It can't be included in the group return. See the instructions for Form 990 for the conditions under which this procedure may be used.
In any year that an organization is properly included as a subordinate organization on a group return, it shouldn't file its own Form 990.

Schedule A (Form 990 or 990-EZ).(p10)

Organizations, other than private foundations, that are described in section 501(c)(3) and that are otherwise required to file Form 990 or 990-EZ must also complete Schedule A of that form.

Schedule B (Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF).(p10)

Organizations that file Form 990 or 990-EZ use this schedule to provide required information regarding their contributors.

Schedule O (Form 990).(p11)

Organizations that file Form 990 must use this schedule to provide required additional information or if additional space is needed.
Other schedules may be required to be filed with Form 990 or 990-EZ. See the instructions for Form 990 or the instructions for Form 990-EZ for more information.

Report significant new or changed program services and changes to organizational documents.(p11)

An organization should report new significant program services or significant changes in how it conducts program services, and significant changes to its organizational documents, on its Form 990 rather than in a letter to EO Determinations. EO Determinations no longer issues letters confirming the tax-exempt status of organizations that report new services or significant changes, or changes to organizational documents. See Miscellaneous Rules, Organization Changes and Exempt Status, later.

Form 990-PF(p11)

All private foundations exempt under section 501(c)(3) must file Form 990-PF. These organizations are discussed in chapter 3.

Electronic Filing(p11)

You may be required to file Form 990, Form 990-EZ, or Form 990-PF, and related forms, schedules, and attachments electronically.
If an organization is required to file a return electronically but doesn't, the organization is considered to haven't filed its return. See Regulations section 301.6033-4 for more information.
The IRS may waive the requirement to file electronically in cases of undue hardship. For information on filing a waiver, see Notice 2010-13, 2010-4 I.R.B. 327, available at
Form 990.(p11)
An organization is required to file Form 990 electronically if it files at least 250 returns during the calendar year and has total assets of $10 million or more at the end of the tax year.
Form 990-PF.(p11)
An organization is required to file Form 990-PF electronically if it files at least 250 returns during the calendar year.
Form 8976.(p11)
An organization is required to notify the IRS electronically of its intent to operate as a section 501(c)(4) organization.

Due Date(p11)

Forms 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF must be filed by the 15th day of the fifth month after the end of your organization's accounting period. Thus, for a calendar year taxpayer, Forms 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF are due May 15 of the following year.If any due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, substitute the next business day.

Extension of time to file.(p11)

Use Form 8868 to request an automatic extension of time to file Forms 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF.
When filing Form 8868 for an automatic extension, neither a signature, nor an explanation is required.

Application for exemption pending.(p11)

An organization that claims to be exempt under section 501(a) but has not established its exempt status by the due date for filing an information return must complete and file Form 990, 990-EZ, 990–N, or 990-PF (if it considers itself a private foundation), unless the organization is exempt from Form 990-series filing requirements. If the organization's application is pending with the IRS, it must so indicate on Forms 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF (whichever applies) by checking the application pending block at the top of page 1 of the return. For more information on the filing requirements, see the Instructions for Forms 990, 990-EZ, and 990-PF.

State reporting requirements.(p11)

Copies of Forms 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF may be used to satisfy state reporting requirements. See the instructions for those forms.

Form 8870.(p11)

Organizations that filed a Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF, and paid premiums or received transfers on certain life insurance, annuity, and endowment contracts (personal benefit contracts), must file Form 8870. For more information, see Form 8870 and the instructions for that form.

Form 8822-B.(p11)

If you moved during the year, fill out Form 8822-B, Change of Address or Responsible Party-Business. Also, if your "Responsible Party" changed this year, you must also fill out Form 8822-B. The "Responsible Party" is the tax-exempt organization’s "Principal Officer" as defined in the Form 990 instructions, in the Glossary section.

Automatic Revocation(p11)

If the organization fails to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF, or fails to submit a Form 990-N, as required, for 3 consecutive years, it will automatically lose its tax-exempt status by operation of law. The list of organizations whose tax-exempt status has been automatically revoked is available on This list (Auto-Revocation List) may be viewed and searched on Exempt Organizations Select Check. The Auto-Revocation List includes each organization's name, Employer Identification Number (EIN) and last known address. It also includes the effective date of the automatic revocation and the date it was posted to the list. The IRS updates the list monthly to include additional organizations that lose their tax-exempt status.

Tax Effect of Loss of Tax-Exempt Status(p11)

If your organization’s tax-exempt status is automatically revoked, you may be required to file one of the following federal income tax returns and pay any applicable income taxes:
In addition, a section 501(c)(3) organization that loses its tax-exempt status can't receive tax-deductible contributions and won't be identified in the IRS Business Master File extract as eligible to received tax-deductible contributions, or be included in Exempt Organizations Select Check (Pub. 78 database).
An organization whose exemption was automatically revoked must apply for tax exemption in order to regain its tax exemption (even if it wasn't originally required to apply). In some situations, an organization may be able to obtain exemption retroactive to its date of revocation. Similarly, if the central organization with a Group Exemption Number is automatically revoked, each subsidiary may need to apply for exemption as an independent organization.
For more information about automatic revocation, go to and select Charities & Non-Profits and then select Revoked? Reinstated? Learn More.



Penalties for failure to file.(p11)

Generally, an exempt organization that fails to file a required return must pay a penalty of $20 a day for each day the failure continues. The same penalty will apply if the organization doesn't give all the information required on the return or doesn't give the correct information. This penalty is indexed for inflation for returns required to be filed after December 31, 2014.
Maximum penalty.(p11)
The maximum penalty for any one return is the smaller of $10,000 or 5% of the organization's gross receipts for the year.
Organization with gross receipts over $1 million.(p11)
For an organization that has gross receipts of over $1 million for the year, the penalty is $100 a day up to a maximum of $50,000.
If the organization is subject to this penalty, the IRS may specify a date by which the return or correct information must be supplied by the organization. Failure to comply with this demand will result in a penalty imposed upon the manager of the organization, or upon any other person responsible for filing a correct return. The penalty is $10 a day for each day that a return isn't filed after the period given for filing. The maximum penalty imposed on all persons with respect to any one return is $5,000.
Exception for reasonable cause.(p11)
No penalty will be imposed if reasonable cause for failure to file timely can be shown.