Community Platform

IRS Form 990 FAQ

Are there any limitations of IRS Form 990 data?

Please note that this information and corresponding ratio tools provided represent data at only one point in time. Although Form 990 ratio analysis can be a useful tool, the information can be dated and in turbulent economic times it is important to consider newer financial information for an accurate picture.

Just as with for-profit businesses, ratios showing financial health in one subsector of the nonprofit world (such as the arts) should be compared with great caution to ratios in another (such as hospitals) since their operations and corresponding financial profiles are inherently different.

Lastly, although useful and informative as indicators, ratios are only one type of measure of the financial health and operations of a nonprofit. Financial ratios also cannot tell you the full story of the positive impact that a nonprofit's programs are making in your community.

What organizations must file IRS Form 990s?

Most nonprofit or "tax-exempt" (to use the legal terminology) organizations with more than $50,000 in gross receipts in their fiscal year must file either an IRS Form 990, 990-EZ, or, in the case of private foundations, a Form 990-PF. Organizations with less than $200,000 in gross receipts in 2010 or in future years may opt to file the shorter Form 990-EZ; most of the key ratios cannot be calculated for these organizations since the Form 990-EZ lacks many of the necessary underlying numbers. (Note that the Form 990-EZ threshold has varied from year to year as the IRS phased in the revised Form 990. See http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=184445,00.html for details.)

What organizations do not file IRS Form 990s?

Not all nonprofits are required to provide annual financial reports to the IRS. Religious congregations and organizations controlled by a congregation or diocese are not required to register with the IRS or file a Form 990, while nonprofits with less than $50,000 in gross receipts for 2010 (and less than $25,000 in prior years) file the 990-N 'e-Postcard' with the IRS, which includes no financial information.