October 16, 2018

Form 990

Small Pennsylvania Town Sues the Fire Department Over Shady Accounting

I would expect more and more items like these in the news in the months and years ahead but that’s just my humble opinion.

Apparently commissioners in Lawrence Park Township, Pennsylvania are sick of messing around and would like an Erie County judge to appoint a custodian to handle the volunteer Lawrence Park Fire Department. On Friday, the township filed a petition, after a July 12th vote of 3-2 to go to court.

Via Firehouse.com:

The three commissioners are claiming the Fire Department is violating a township ordinance by not providing an accounting of how the department is spending township money. The commissioners are arguing a custodian should be in place long enough to bring the department in compliance with the law.

The commissioners and the Fire Department have been feuding over the department’s finances since 2009. The firefighters have said the department is fiscally sound.

The funny part of all this is that the fire department claimed part of the reason why their finances were so jacked up was the Form 990 they “never knew existed” according to department president Maureen Crotty. Apparently the township commissioners felt the lack of a 990 (which reveals any non-profit organization’s expenses and revenues and is required for all non-profits above $250,000) was one of many good reasons not to give the department more money.

So back in April, almost a year after the IRS said all required 990s better be in or else, the fire department was still waiting to get a completed 990 back from its newly hired accountant, who didn’t have time to fill out the simple form while also auditing the department’s financial records by request of the stingy township commissioners.

Back then, Crotty stated she hoped the finished 990 and audit would help repair the strained relationship between the fire department and the five-member board of commissioners. Guess that didn’t happen.

Someone in IRS Des Moines Office Didn’t Get the “File the Form 990” Memo

Our contributor Joe Kristan has spent most of July on vacation in an undisclosed location but he returned this week and didn’t waste any time pointing out some irony courtesy of the IRS.


What you see above is a clip from the list of tax-exempt entities in Iowa who have not filed their Form 990 and need to take action by the new drop dead date of October 15th.

Welcome back, Joe.

The IRS Is Giving Small Nonprofits One Final Chance to File Their 990s

Remember the IRS’ failed outreach to small nonprofits back in the spring? Yeah, the May 17th deadline threw a lot small NFPs for a loop and they up and missed the filing deadline completely.

IRS Commish Doug Shulman figured that, despite the unprecedented outreach, the whole snafu was his bad and that nonprofits shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about missing the deadline, the Service will still take your 990, tardiness notwithstanding.

But that can’t go on forever now, can it? Accordingly, the IRS set a new deadline today to file the 990s and it’s set for a much more memorable October 15th.

WASHINGTON — Small nonprofit organizations at risk of losing their tax-exempt status because they failed to file required returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009 can preserve their status by filing returns by Oct. 15, 2010, under a one-time relief program, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.

The IRS today posted on a special page of IRS.gov the names and last-known addresses of these at-risk organizations, along with guidance about how to come back into compliance. The organizations on the list have return due dates between May 17 and Oct. 15, 2010, but the IRS has no record that they filed the required returns for any of the past three years.

“We are doing everything we can to help organizations comply with the law and keep their valuable tax exemption,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “So if you do not have your filings up to date, now’s the time to take action and get back on track.”

It’s simple people. If your gross receipts are under $25,000, get yourself a 990-N (e-Postcard), fill it out and you’re done. If you have receipts up to $500k, you’ll have to fill out either Form 990 or 990-EZ which will probably take you all of 15 minutes.

Get it? No more blowing this off. OCTOBER 15TH is the drop dead date. After that, Shulman & Co. will be busting down the doors to inform you that you’re no longer tax exempt. And trust us, you don’t want to deal with that.

IRS Offers One-Time Special Filing Relief Program for Small Charities; Oct. 15 Due Date to Preserve Tax-Exempt Status [IRS]

Dear Small Nonprofits, the IRS Still Wants Your 990s

In a show of understanding for nonprofits who may have been completely unaware of the Form 990 requirement in place for the last three years, IRS commissioner Doug Shulman sent out a really sweet letter encouraging smaller NFPs to go ahead and file anyway even though the deadline has come and gone.

Now that the May 17 filing deadline has passed, it appears that many small tax-exempt organizations have not filed the required information return in time. These organizations are vital to communities across the United States, and I understand their concerns about possibly losing their tax-exempt status.

The IRS has conducted an unprecedented outreach effort in the tax-exempt sector on the 2006 law’s new filing requirements, but many of these smaller organizations are just now learning of the May 17 deadline. I want to reassure these small organizations that the IRS will do what it can to help them avoid losing their tax-exempt status.

The IRS will be providing additional guidance in the near future on how it will help these organizations maintain their important tax-exempt status — even if they missed the May 17 deadline. The guidance will offer relief to these small organizations and provide them with the opportunity to keep their critical tax-exempt status intact.

So I urge these organizations to go ahead and file — even though the May 17 deadline has passed.

The Service assures us that the 990 e-Postcard is simple and easy to fill out, no need to drag your CPA into this mess.

Though the IRS sent friendly reminders to 600,000 charities over the 3 years this new rule has been effect, up to 215,000 charities may have missed the May 17th deadline. Seriously, it isn’t too late. Someone get on that.

There were complaints that the IRS was swamped with last-minute 990 filers (go figure) rushing to meet last week’s deadline so we’re going to guess that when Shulman says it’s okay to send those forms in anyway, he kind of means it. And perhaps that will teach everyone to file on time next year.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here.

The IRS Outreach to Nonprofits Didn’t Go So Hot

“The IRS has conducted an unprecedented outreach effort in the tax-exempt sector on the 2006 law’s new filing requirements, but many of these smaller organizations are just now learning of the May 17 deadline.”

~ Doug Shulman, IRS Commissioner

Reminder to Nonprofits: 990s are Due By May 17th

Nonprofits don’t need the reminder but we’re going to remind them anyway: May 17th is the new deadline to file your Form 990s (it would have been the 15th but that happens to fall on a weekend, consider yourselves fortunate, procrastinators).

The Boys and Girls Clubs and Goodwills of America have probably already filed their 990s but what about the tiny, grassroots organizations that didn’t get the memo when Service rules changed to require even small non profits under $25,000 to file 990s?


The guess is that up to 1/4 of all non profits could inadvertently lose their tax exempt status by missing the May 17th deadline without even realizing they were supposed to file anything at all. It costs $750 to refile after losing said status, so blowing it could be a costly alternative to hiring a professional to get the 990 in order for a small, simple nonprofit.

This isn’t merely busywork presented to nonprofits for shits and giggles, as we all know the Service would never EVER waste anyone’s time with bureaucracy and paperwork just for kicks. The IRS is seeking to clean up tax exempt status claims to exclude agencies that exist in name only or simply for the tax break. In its view, leaving NFP organizations that take in less than $25,000 a year largely unchecked left the fraud door swinging wide open. And as we all know, the Service has a duty to the taxpayer to collect everyone’s fair share.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that all nonprofits must file a 990 for three consecutive years, making 2009 (and thus May 17th) the 3rd year. Orgs that have not filed 990s will automatically lose federal tax exempt status.

The good news is that if you are trying to claim a tax deduction for a donation to one of these little bitty nonprofits that will be losing their exemption, you can still do so up until the date the Service notifies the charity that it can no longer claim tax exempt status.

All is not lost, of course, as those familiar with IRS tactics presume that “offenders” will be offered a chance to redeem themselves (after steep penalties and late fees, of course).

More on the 990 Filing Deadline:
When a Tax Time Bomb Goes Off: Repurcussions Await Some Small Nonprofits

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see all of her posts here.

Non-Profit Organizations Feeling the Pain of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance

You’ve already seen me rail on SOX and I’m not the only one.

Skeptical CPA, Accounting Onion, Business Insider’s John Carney, Re: The Auditors (and Francine here on Going Concern). Need I point you to more?

I am not classically trained in recognizing Service threats but this certainly feels like one.

Accounting and Tax Tips:

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded tax-exempt organizations to make sure they file their annual information form on time. In 2010 the tax-exempt status of any non-profit that has not filed the required form in the last three years will be revoked.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires that non-profit organizations that do not file a required information form for three consecutive years automatically lose their Federal tax-exempt status. This requirement has been in effect since the beginning of 2007.


The costs of compliance begin to add up and suddenly it starts to reek of 404(b); compliance for the sake of compliance does not equal nor even assist transparency.

I spoke to Chris Leach, a former not-for-profit auditor who has served on several NFP boards, who gave some insight into the problem with the 990. Let me tick off just a few “concerns”:

• Some of the smaller non-profits don’t have anyone on their board qualified to do the 990. It’s not a 1040 and problems are numerous.

• NFP board members are exposed to liability, being forced to “sign off” on 990s. That should sound familiar to any auditor who has been at the job for longer than ten years or so.

Increased regulatory pressure has been proven to distort true financial condition, not necessarily make it any more transparent.

Any of this sound eerily familiar?

Many boards do not have members equipped to adequately review and sign Form 990, so they are still exposing themselves to liability as a result of improperly filed forms. “Bad publicity is the largest implication in my view, especially for organizations facing financial stress, and even more so in this economic environment,” Chris told me. “Beyond that, from a board member’s perspective, the biggest problem would be misstatements on the Form 990, which could potentially lead to personal liability for the board.”

Chris is slightly more reasonable than yours truly, saying “Just the simple day-to-day administration of tax issues puts pressure on smaller not-for-profit organizations. [However], when a not-for-profit organization isn’t a worthy steward of its donors’ trust, donors feel betrayed, so they want more transparency.”

Fair enough. Bring on the transparency (and the headaches?)!