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After all the steps it takes to become a registered nonprofit with tax-exempt status, the last thing you want to do is lose it for reasons that are in your control. While staying exempt requires a fair amount of housekeeping and paperwork each year, the effort—and your cause—is well worth it. Here we break down what you’ll need to file annually on the federal and state level.

One way to simplify the process is to work with registered agents who will walk you through it and file for you—like our partners at Harbor Compliance.

Federal - IRS Form 990

Most organizations (with some specific exceptions) will need to file an annual return with the IRS—it’s just a question of which form you need to fill out based on the specifics of your organization. Check the IRS’s guidelines here to see which Form 990 your organization qualifies for.

  • Per IRS guidelines, if your gross receipts (the total amounts your organization received from any source, not subtracting expenses) were less than or equal to $50,000, you’re eligible to fill out Form 990-N or “e-postcard” electronically.
  • If your organization’s gross receipts were less than $200,000, with assets under $500,000, you may be eligible to fill out form 990-EZ, the short-form return, which is a bit more involved than the e-postcard, but more streamlined than the long-form return. 
  • Organizations with gross receipts and total assets at or above $200,000 and $500,000, respectively may be required to provide more detailed information about their earnings and expenditures. Check out the IRS’s instructions for filling out the full Form 990.
  • If you’re filling out the long form and would like to e-file, here’s the 2020 list of IRS-approved providers for reference.

State - Fundraising re-registration

In the process of incorporating your organization and establishing your 501c3, you likely spent some time getting registered for Charitable Solicitations within your state. At minimum, you’ll want to renew this registration by the date specified in your paperwork and maintain that process on a yearly basis. Some states—like California, for instance—ask you to prepare an annual corporate report as well as additional registrations to maintain exemptions from state corporate and sales taxes. 

If you’re in a state that requires these additional steps, and certainly if your nonprofit operates in more than one state, the easiest way to go about the process is not to do it alone. Our partners at Harbor Compliance offer software and services for annual reports, state-specific entity registrations, and fundraising registrations as a whole along with registered agent service.

Disclaimer: The information included on this page and on related pages is for general informational purposes only, and is not intended to be relied on as legal or tax advice or opinion. Every situation is unique and NationBuilder does not recommend acting on information obtained from this page and related pages without consulting legal or tax professionals.

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