Choosing the Right Form 990: A Simple Guide for Nonprofits

by | Apr 16, 2024

Which Form 990 should you use? It’s a question that resonates with many nonprofits — but don’t worry. We’ll break down the decision-making process in a way that’s easy to understand. Keep reading to learn more about Form 990, the options available, and how easily to choose the correct one for your organization.

Choosing the Right Form 990: A Simple Guide for Nonprofits

What is Form 990? 

Form 990 is an annual reporting return that certain tax-exempt organizations must file with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Its primary purpose is to provide the IRS and the public with a comprehensive overview of a nonprofit organization’s activities, governance, and financial health. Not only does it prevent organizations from abusing their tax-exempt status, but you can also use it as a marketing tool. We shared more detailed information about Form 990 and other savvy tax season tips in our Nonprofit Tax Season FAQs, so be sure to review that to learn more.

Regarding Form 990 itself, there are different versions, each varying in length, difficulty, and extent of information required. Generally, the form you submit depends upon your organization’s gross receipts from the prior year as well as its assets. 

What version of Form 990 should I choose? 

There are four main variations of Form 990. They are listed below, along with the nonprofit eligibility requirements for each:

  1. Form 990-N (e-Postcard): Eligible organizations include those with $50,000 or less gross receipts. Generally, smaller nonprofits with minimal gross receipts should opt for this simplified electronic filing. It offers a straightforward way of fulfilling the reporting obligations without the burden of extensive documentation.
  1. Form 990-EZ: Organizations with gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets of less than $500,000 can use this form. It’s typically utilized by small to medium-sized nonprofits for more streamlined reporting. Since it’s a shorter version of the standard Form 990, it strikes a nice balance between simplicity and the need for more comprehensive information. 
  1. Form 990: Larger nonprofit organizations with gross receipts greater than or equal to $200,000 or total assets greater than or equal to $500,000 should use this form. The full Form 990 is at least 16 pages long. It provides for more detailed reporting and ensures a thorough representation of the organization’s financial and operational landscape.
  1. Form 990-PF: Private foundations are eligible to use this form, regardless of their size, and must use it to report on their financial activities. It is specifically tailored to capture the unique financial activities and responsibilities associated solely with private foundations.

When is Form 990 due? 

Form 990 is due 5 1/2 months after closing your organization’s fiscal year. So, if your fiscal year is on the calendar year (with a year-end of December 31), the IRS Form 990 will be due on May 15. That may seem far away, but the form is lengthy and takes time to prepare. Clients sometimes underestimate what’s required to complete their Form 990, forcing them to scramble to gather and submit their information at the last minute. Preparing in advance will benefit your nonprofit in the long run by avoiding late fees and helping the organization remain compliant.

How to get help filing Form 990 

Form 990 can be a time-consuming, complex tax return, often requiring in-depth knowledge of nonprofit tax law, compliance, and accounting standards. If you need a hand with preparing your Form 990, our expert nonprofit accounting team is happy to assist. Save yourself time, money, and stress, and let the experts at Qbix prepare your Form 990 for you. Don’t procrastinate any longer — schedule a free consultation call today. You’ll be glad you did.


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