Nonprofit Public Disclosure Requirements

Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In return for being tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations described in section 501(c) or 501(d) are required to disclose certain information to the public.  These include the following.

Annual returns (Form 990, 990-EZ or 990-PF and 990-T) for three years after the due date. This includes all schedules except for the names and addresses of contributors on Schedule B.

Application for exemption (Form 1023 or 1024) and all supporting documents if filed on or after July 15, 1987.
IRS determination letter showing your organization’s tax-exempt status.

Normally these documents must be made available the day that they are requested; however, in the case of written requests you have 30 days to provide the information.  If someone asks for copies, you can charge a reasonable fee to cover the copy costs plus actual postage for mailing.  Most nonprofit organizations include a copy of their Form 990 for the last three years on their website for easier access to the public.  A nonprofit does not have to comply with individual requests for copies if it makes these documents widely available.   Posting the documents on its website meets the widely available criteria if the documents are in the same format as the original documents and can be accessed, downloaded, viewed and printed.  If the organization is required to file Form 990 (as opposed to Form 990-N, 990-EZ or 990-PF), it will need to disclose how it makes its Forms 1023 (or 1024), 990, 990-T available for public inspection. 

Responsible individuals of an organization that do not comply with public inspection requirements can be fined $20 per day, up to a maximum of $10,000 for annual returns.  There is no maximum penalty for failure to provide a copy of an exemption application. 

Although not required, the IRS encourages organizations to disclose their annual reports, financial statements, conflict of interest policy and other governing documents to the public as well.

Posted by: Carrie Minnich, CPA

Posted in Mission Minded Nonprofits

Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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