One of the most important financial filings nonprofit organizations must complete annually is IRS Form 990. For smaller nonprofits, this form may be the only action it takes each year to provide comprehensive financial information to the public and other organizations, such as grantors or charity watchdogs.
According to the Journal of Accountancy, Form 990 is one of the more challenging IRS forms. It’s complex, lengthy, and intimidating. The following tips may make reporting on 990 easier for your organization.
Which Version Should You File?
As with the personal income tax form 1040, there is an “EZ” version and a standard version. Nonprofits with gross receipts of less than $50,000 may wish to consider completing the EZ version. It’s always a good idea to meet with your accountant or with Welter Consulting to discuss which form may suit your nonprofit better and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
If your organization earns gross receipts between $50,000 and $200,000, you can choose between 990 EZ and 990. Any organization earning more than $200,000 should complete the standard 990. Private foundations, regardless of income status, must complete 990-PF.
Prepare for Filing
Gather your financial information, calculator, pens, paper, and records before sitting down to work on your 990. Some like to print a paper copy of the form and use it as a draft version. Once they are satisfied they have completed the form, they can then transfer it to the online filing system.
If you are using a not-for-profit accounting system such as Abila MIP Fund Accounting, it is easy to review the financial information needed for form 990. Others still using spreadsheets or general small business accounting software may need more time to review the numbers, find all the information, and prepare their report.
5 Tips for IRS Form 990
As you work on form 990, keep the following in mind:
- Do not include unnecessary personal information: Form 990 is made public and often shared with other organizations. Including personally-identifying information should be avoided as much as possible. In today’s world, with rampant identity theft, thieves find information through many sources, including published data. Don’t make their job any easier than it already is – do not disclose anything other than what is required.
- Complete parts I through XII: You can’t skip any parts between I and XII if you are filling out form 990 standard. Some mistakenly believe sections do not apply to their organization, but the IRS requires completion of the entire form.
- Include required schedules: After completing Part IV, you will have a list of all required schedules for your form. The IRS recommends double-checking the schedules to ensure they are complete. Be sure to include “0” on lines without an entry and answer “yes” or “no” to each question as required.
- Complete Schedule A: Speaking of Schedules, all 501(c) 3 organizations should complete Schedule A. Organizations with a designation of 4947(a) should also complete Schedule A. Failing to complete this schedule can result in penalties.
- Sign the return: You’d be surprised at how often people forget this simple step. Sign, date, and file the return!
Although no one enjoys completing IRS forms, they are necessary to ensure all financial information is reported accurately and promptly to the government. Nonprofits must adhere to IRS reporting guidelines or run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. By completing Form 990 promptly and thoroughly, you’ll rest easy knowing it’s done for the year and have a valuable document demonstrating your organization’s financial status.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.