Many tax-exempt organizations must file annual returns in May


Notice: Historical Content

This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current law, policies or procedures.

FS-2018-10, May 2018

Many tax-exempt organizations must file their annual information returns or notices with the IRS by May 15. Annual information returns include Form 990, Form 990-EZ and Form 990-PF. Form 990-N (e-Postcard) is an annual notice.

Which Form 990 series to file

Which annual return an organization needs to file generally depends on its gross receipts, total assets or the type of organization it is. For example, all private foundations file Form 990-PF.

An organization with annual gross receipts of $200,000 or more, or total assets of $500,000 or more at the end of the tax year must file Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax.

An organization with annual gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets of less than $500,000 at the end of the tax year may file Form 990-EZPDF, Short Form Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, instead of Form 990.

Organizations that normally have $50,000 or less in annual gross receipts must file either Form 990-N (e-Postcard), or can choose to file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ instead. Organizations must file Form 990-N electronically. Supporting organizations can’t file Form 990-N.

The Form 990 filing thresholds page on has more information about which forms to file.

Organizations with other types of filing requirements

These organizations must file another return instead of Form 990:

Certain church-affiliated, governmental and political organizations don’t have an annual filing requirement. The Form 990 instructions have more details about organizations exempt from filing.

Filing returns when exempt status not yet recognized by the IRS

An organization should file a Form 990-series return if it claims exempt status but hasn’t applied for it, or if it has applied but not yet received an IRS letter recognizing tax-exempt status.

For recognition of exemption from the date of formation, organizations requesting recognition generally must apply within 27 months after legal formation of the organization. Organizations apply for exemption by filing Forms 1023, 1023-EZ, 1024 or 1024-A.

When and how to file

The due date for Form 990-series returns is the fifteenth day of the fifth month after an organization's accounting period ends. For organizations that use the calendar year as their accounting period, the due date is May 15. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the due date is the next business day.

All organizations may file electronically. Organizations that file at least 250 returns of any type during the year and have total assets of $10 million or more at the end of the tax year must file electronically. “Returns” include information returns, such as Forms W-2 and 1099, and income, employment and excise tax returns.

Unless reporting a name change, an organization with an electronic filing requirement that files a paper return won’t satisfy its filing requirement. If an organization believes it needs to file a paper return, it should consult the Form 990 instructions for details and mailing addresses.

Organizations can use Form 8868 to request an automatic six-month extension of time to file any Form 990-series return, except Form 990-N.

Rejected returns

The IRS rejects electronically filed Form 990 series returns that are incomplete or the wrong return. Form 990 series returns filed on paper that are incomplete or the wrong return are sent back with a letter. Follow the instructions in the letter to provide IRS the missing or incomplete information.

To avoid failure to file penalties, the organization must send back the corrected return within 10 days of the date of the letter to the address on the top right of the letter. The date the IRS receives a complete and accurate return is the date the IRS considers the return filed.

Amending a return

Organizations that must amend a return should file a new return including any schedules. They should use the Form 990 version that applies to the year they’re amending. The amended return must show all information, not just new or corrected information.

Check the “Amended return” box in Section B of the form. Also, enter the amended parts and schedules of Form 990 in Schedule O and describe the changes.

Failure to file penalties

Unless the organization shows reasonable cause for filing late, the IRS can charge a penalty of $20 a day, up to the lesser of $10,000 or five percent of the organization’s gross receipts for the year. The penalty increases to $100 per day, up to $51,000, for an organization whose gross receipts exceed $1,028,500.

Automatic revocation of exempt status for not filing

An organization that doesn’t file a required annual return or notice for three consecutive years will automatically lose its tax-exempt status. Automatically revoked organizations may need to file income tax returns and pay income tax. Organizations can apply for reinstatement of their tax-exempt status and pay the proper user fee.

Public inspection

An exempt organization must make its Form 990-series return available for public inspection upon request. The IRS also provides copies of Form 990-series returns upon request. Organizations should be careful their returns don’t include personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers. Organizations should make sure forms and schedules are clear enough to photocopy legibly.

Publication 557, Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization, has more information about public inspection.


Organizations need to keep records that support income, deduction or credits for at least three years from the date the return is due or filed, whichever is later. But they should keep records that verify basis in property for as long as needed to figure the basis of original or replacement property. The organization should also keep copies of any filed returns. They’re helpful when preparing future returns and making computations for amended returns.

More information: