General Instructions

Purpose of Form

The Black Lung Benefits Revenue Act of 1977 (the Act) amended the Internal Revenue Code to impose excise tax on the sale of coal by the producer and established a trust fund (funded by the coal tax and certain other revenues) to be available for expenses of providing medical benefits where not paid by the appropriate mine operator.

Form 990-BL is generally used by black lung benefit trusts to meet the reporting requirements of section 6033. If initial taxes are imposed on the trust or certain related parties, trusts must also file Schedule A (Form 990-BL), Initial Excise Taxes on Black Lung Benefit Trusts and Certain Related Persons.

Who Must File

The trustee must file Form 990-BL for a trust exempt from tax under section 501(a) and described in section 501(c)(21), unless the trust normally has gross receipts in each tax year of not more than $50,000.

A trust that normally has gross receipts of $50,000 or less must file an annual electronic notice. See and click on “Annual Electronic Filing Requirement for Small Exempt Organizations—Form 990-N (e-Postcard)” for more information.

The initial excise taxes imposed on black lung benefit trusts, trustees, and disqualified persons under sections 4951 and 4952 are reported on Schedule A (Form 990-BL).

A black lung benefit trust required to file an annual information return and liable for tax under section 4952 should complete Form 990-BL and attach a completed Schedule A (Form 990-BL). A trust liable for section 4952 tax but not otherwise required to file Form 990-BL should complete the identification and signature area of Form 990-BL and attach a completed Schedule A (Form 990-BL).

A trustee or disqualified person liable for section 4951 or 4952 tax should complete the heading (omitting the check boxes for application pending, address change, and fair market value of assets) and signature area of Form 990-BL and attach a completed Schedule A (Form 990-BL). A trustee liable for sections 4951 and 4952 taxes reports both taxes on one return.

If no tax is due under section 4951 or 4952, do not file Schedule A (Form 990-BL).

Your Area Director will tell you what procedures to follow if the trust or any related persons incur any liability for additional taxes and penalties based on sections 4951 and 4952.

Form 990-BL will not be automatically mailed to the persons required to file it but may be requested from the Forms Distribution Center for your state by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676).

An organization claiming an exempt status under section 501(c)(21) prior to the establishment of exempt status should file this return if its application for recognition of exemption is pending (including appeal of a proposed adverse decision).

Accounting Period

The return must be on the basis of the established annual accounting period of the organization. If the organization has no established accounting period, the return should be on the basis of the calendar year.

Accounting Methods

Gross income, receipts, and disbursements must be figured by the method of accounting regularly used by the organization in maintaining its books and records, unless otherwise specified in the instructions.

When and Where To File

This return, including Schedule A (Form 990-BL) if tax is due, must be filed on or before the 15th day of the 5th month following the close of the filer's tax year. If the regular due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, file on the next business day. File it at the following address:

Internal Revenue Service 
201 W. River Center Blvd. 
Stop 31, TE/GE 
Covington, KY 41011

You may request an extension of time to file Form 990-BL by filing Form 8868, Application for Extension of Time To File an Exempt Organization Return.

Rounding off to whole dollars.   You may show the money items on the return and accompanying schedules as whole-dollar amounts. To do so, drop amounts less than 50 cents and increase any amounts from 50 to 99 cents to the next dollar. For example, $1.39 becomes $1 and $2.50 becomes $3.

  If you have to add two or more amounts to figure the amount to enter on a line, include cents when adding the amounts and round off only the total.

Attachments.   If you need more space, attach separate sheets showing the same information in the same order as on the printed forms. Show the totals on the printed forms.

  Enter the trust's employer identification number (EIN) (or the disqualified person's social security number (SSN)) on each sheet. Also, use sheets that are the same size as the forms and indicate clearly the line of the printed form to which the information relates.


If an organization fails to file timely, correctly, or completely, it will have to pay $20 for each day ($100 a day if it is a large organization) during which such failure continues, unless it can be shown that the failure was due to reasonable cause. The maximum penalty with respect to any one return is the smaller of $10,000 ($50,000 for a large organization) or 5% of the gross receipts of the organization for the year.

The IRS may make written demand that the delinquent return be filed or the information furnished within a reasonable time after mailing of notice of the demand. The person failing to comply with the demand on or before the date specified in the demand will have to pay $10 for each day the failure continues, unless there is reasonable cause. The maximum penalty imposed on all persons for failures with respect to any one return shall not exceed $5,000. If more than one person is liable for any failures, all such persons are jointly and severally liable with respect to such failures. See section 6652(c).

To avoid having to explain an incomplete return, if a part or line item does not apply, enter “N/A” (not applicable) or “-0-” if an amount is zero.

There are penalties for willful failure to file and for filing fraudulent returns and statements. (See sections 7203, 7206, and 7207.)

Large organization.   A large organization is one that has gross receipts greater than $1 million for the tax year.

Public Inspection of Completed 990-BL Returns and Approved Exemption Applications

Through the IRS.   Generally, the information reported on or with Form 990-BL, including most attachments, is available for public inspection (section 6104(b)). This applies both to information required by the form and to information furnished voluntarily. Approved applications for exemption from federal income tax are also available for public inspection.


Part IV of Form 990-BL, Statement With Respect to Contributors, etc., and Schedule A (Form 990-BL) are not open to public inspection.

  The public inspection rules do not apply to Form 990-BL and the attached Schedule A (Form 990-BL) filed by a trustee or disqualified person to report initial taxes on self-dealing or taxable expenditures. The public inspection rules also do not apply to the trustee or disqualified person's SSN or EIN.

  Use Form 4506-A, Request for Public Inspection or Copy of Exempt or Political Organization IRS Form, to request a copy or to inspect an exempt organization return through IRS. There is a fee for photocopying, but not for inspection at an IRS office.

Through the organization—Annual return.   An organization must, during the 3-year period beginning with the due date (including extensions) of the Form 990-BL (or, if later, the date it is actually filed), make its return available for public inspection. It must also provide copies of either all items that are available for public inspection or specifically identified items, if so requested. All parts of the return and all required schedules and attachments must be made available except Part IV of Form 990-BL and Schedule A (Form 990-BL) as discussed above.

  Inspection and requests for copies must be permitted during regular business hours at the organization's principal office and at each of its regional or district offices. This provision applies to any organization that files Form 990-BL, regardless of the size of the organization and whether or not it has any paid employees. Also, copies must be provided the same business day they are requested unless unusual circumstances exist. In the case of unusual circumstances, the copies must be provided by the next business day after the day the unusual circumstances cease to exist, but in no event may the delay exceed five business days. See Regulations section 301.6104(d)-1 for what constitutes unusual circumstances and the definition of regional and district offices.

  When a request for copies is made in writing, the copies must generally be sent within 30 days of the date the request was received.


A black lung benefit trust does not have to comply with individual requests for copies if it makes this information widely available. This can be done by posting the application for tax exemption and/or an annual information return on a readily accessible World Wide Website. However, an organization that makes its information available this way must advise requesters how the material may be accessed. See Regulations section 301.6104(d)-2 for specific instructions.

Fee for copies.

An organization may charge a reasonable fee for providing copies.

  Before the organization provides the documents, it may require that the individual requesting copies of the documents pay the fee. If the organization has provided an individual making a request with notice of the fee, and the individual does not pay the fee within 30 days, or if the individual pays the fee by check and the check does not clear upon deposit, the organization may disregard the request.

Additional information.

See Regulations sections 301.6104(d)-1 through 301.6104(d)-3 for additional information on reasonable fees for providing copies, not filling requests for copies when material is widely available, and other related information.

Exemption application.   Any section 501(c)(21) organization that submitted an application for recognition of exemption to the IRS after July 15, 1987, must make available for public inspection a copy of its application (together with a copy of any papers submitted in support of its application) and any letter or other document issued by the IRS in response to the application. An organization that submitted its exemption application on or before July 15, 1987, must also comply with this requirement if it had a copy of its application on July 15, 1987. As in the case of annual returns, the copy of the application and related documents must be made available for inspection during regular business hours at the organization's principal office and at each of its regional or district offices having at least three employees.

Penalties for failure to comply with public inspection requirements.   If a person does not comply with the requirement to permit public inspection of annual returns, there is a penalty of $20 for each day during which such failure continues, unless there is reasonable cause. The maximum penalty imposed on all persons for failures that apply to any one return is $10,000.

  If a person does not comply with the public inspection of applications requirement, there is a penalty of $20 a day for each day during which such failure continues, unless there is reasonable cause. There is no maximum penalty limitation (see section 6652(c)).

  Any person who willfully does not comply with the public inspection requirements for the annual return or application is subject to an additional penalty of $5,000 for each return or application (see section 6685).

  If more than one person is liable for any penalty, all such persons shall be jointly and severally liable for each failure.

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