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501(c)(3) Organizations: What am I Required to Disclose When People Ask?

Tax-exempt organizations are exempt from many taxes, including federal income taxes.  However, in exchange for exemption from income tax for charitable activities and for receiving tax-deductible contributions, Congress requires 501(c)(3) organizations to disclose the following information to the public upon request:

  • Annual returns—Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, and any Forms 990-T filed after August 17, 2006;
  • All Form 990 schedules (except Schedule B), attachments, and supporting documents;
  •  Application for exemption and all supporting documents (Form 1023); and
  •  Letter from the IRS ruling that the organization has exempt status.

The organization can post these documents on its website and direct people there if a request is made over the phone or via email.  If the organization does not have the documents posted, a representative of the organization will need to make a copy of the forms.  The organization may charge the requesters a reasonable fee for the copies.

 If the request is made in person, a representative of the organization should give the requester copies the same day the request is made.  If the organization has no office or has limited hours during certain times of the year, the requested information should be made available within two weeks.

 If the organization intentionally disregards this rule, it will be penalized $20 each day for noncompliance, up to a maximum of $10,000.  Also, if an individual at the organization willfully refuses to comply, he or she could be assessed a penalty up to $5,000. 

Please note that meeting minutes or corporate documents are not required to be disclosed.  Some organizations may intentionally disclose documents to increase transparency for potential donors.  This may be a useful strategy, but the directors and officers of the organization should carefully consider what information is required to be disclosed and its potential impact on supporters. 

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  

Categories: Income Tax, Tax, Tax-Exempt Organizations

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