Important May 15 deadline for NFPs

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The much-publicized April 15 tax deadline has come and gone. But for many charities, May 15 is just as important.

That’s the deadline for calendar-year nonprofit annual returns, and missing it could be a serious problem for your charity.

Why? Failure to file required returns for three years in a row can lead to automatic revocation of your tax-exempt status. The consequences of this are severe — donors can no longer deduct contributions to your organization, and your organization might be taxed as a corporation.

With some exceptions, such as qualified churches and certain other religious organizations, every nonprofit is required to complete Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-N.

Private foundations must file Form 990-PF.

The good news is that filing your charity’s return might be easier than you think.

A nonprofit with annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less can file Form 990-N, known as the “e-Postcard.”

Form 990-N has eight questions and is filed electronically. Nonprofits with gross receipts of less than $200,000 and assets under $500,000 can use Form 990-EZ. Larger organizations must use the standard Form 990.

If your charity runs a business to help raise funds, you may also need to file Form 990-T to report and pay tax on income from those sales.

What can you do if your nonprofit fails to file a return by May 15? Your first step: Contact a tax professional to determine the full extent of the delinquency. Here’s why: May 15 is the filing deadline for charities with a Dec. 31 year-end.

However, your charity might have a fiscal year-end if, for example, you need to accommodate government grants. In that case, the due date of your annual federal return is the 15th day of the fifth month after the close of your fiscal year.