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One-Fourth of Nonprofits are Set to Lose Tax Exemption
Doomsday is coming… May 18, 2010 to be exact. No, it has nothing to do with the end of the Mayan calendar (it’s 2012!). May 18 is the day nearly a quarter of all US nonprofits find that the IRS has automatically revoked their tax-exempt status. If you do the math, that’s nearly 400,000 nonprofits. At The Foundation Group, we have sounded the alarm several times over the past few months. It seems people only start paying attention to it when it’s almost too late.
Consider this quote from Diane Aviv, president of the Independent Sector, a nonprofit trade group: “It will be an ungodly mess once these organizations realize what has happened to them.”
We implore you to pay attention now before it is too late.
So why is this happening, what does it mean…and how can you avoid being among the 400,000?
First, the why. In August 2006, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act of 2006. As the name suggests, this particular bill was an overhaul of the US code regarding the operation of large corporate pension funds. Slipped into the bill in conference committee, however, were 393 pages of legislation that have gradually affected 501(c)(3) and other tax-exempt entities since. While most nonprofits have been relatively untouched by the APP so far, that’s about to change in the most dramatic way.
Historically, only nonprofits with annual gross income over $25,000 were required to file Form 990. The PPA changed all that with the introduction of Form 990-N for small, low-income organizations. The 2007 tax year was the first year that Form 990-N was required. But Form 990-N was just the beginning. The real kick in the PPA is the rule that will culminate in the automatic revocation of the tax exemption for any nonprofit that fails to file its required Form 990 for three consecutive years. The third year for most organizations is their 2009 filing due date: Monday, May 17.
What does it mean? The IRS is unusually candid regarding the outcome of the exemption revocations: There is no recourse unless you reapply for 501(c) status. In other words, you will have to start all over again. These revocations are automatic and statutory. No one makes a positive or negative decision. Either you fall into the category or you don’t. Quite simple.
What can you do there? File your Form 990… period! It is not too late. If your nonprofit normally files Form 990 or Form 990-EZ, your due date may be extended by 3 months, but only if you get a timely extension. There is no extension for Form 990-N…so the absence of a declaration will mean the end of your tax exemption.
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