Nikhil Pillai

Hand It Over! Form 990 Public Disclosure Requirements for Tax-Exempt Organizations

For organizations whose fiscal year ended in December 2016, Form 990 season is almost here. This means folks may begin asking you for your Form 990s. But don’t be intimidated, we have you covered!

Our Form 990 public disclosure guide, Give Me Your 990! Public Disclosure Requirements for Tax-Exempt Organizations, describes the requirements of when and how you’ll need to disclose your Form 990 to the public.

Here are some quick takeaways:

  1. If someone requests your organization’s tax documents, you do need to share your Form 990 for the last three years and a copy of your application for tax exemption. However, you only need to share the information that was requested. So if someone asks for your tax-exemption application only, you can limit your response to your application, without any of your Form 990s. Additionally, if you make your public disclosure documents “widely available,” you do not have to provide copies to individual requestors.
  2. While you do need to share a copy of your Form 990 (or variation) when requested, most 501(c)s are not obligated to reveal information about contributors. This means you can redact your Schedule B to omit the names of contributors.  However, private foundations and 527 political organizations do need to reveal information about contributors.
  3. When you need to respond by depends on how the request was made.
    1. If the request is made in person, you must respond to the request the same day. We recommend having a few copies of your public disclosure materials on hand just in case.
    2. If the request is made by writing (including mail, fax, email, or courier), you must respond within 30 days of receiving the request.

For more information on Public Disclosure related to your Form 990, including what “widely available,” whether you can charge a reasonable fee for costs incurred when responding to requests, and what happens if you don’t respond to a request, please look to our complete guide.