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About Form 990

IRS Form 990 Disclosure Regulations

  • As of June 8, 1999, all 501(c) organizations—except private foundations—will be required to send copies of their three most recent Form 990 (as well as their Form 1023, the form to apply for tax-exempt status) to anyone who requests them.

  • If the request is made in person, nonprofits must provide copies of the forms immediately. If the request is made in writing, by fax, or e-mail, not-for-profits have thirty days to mail out copies.

  • Charities may charge a "reasonable fee" for copying and mailing the forms. Reasonable is defined by the IRS as one dollar for the first page and 15 cents for each additional page.

  • For written requests, nonprofits can require advance payment of the copying and mailing fees. In that situation, the thirty-day limit would not begin until the nonprofit had received the payment. Organizations that do not have pre-payment policies will have to notify the person requesting the form(s) of any copying and mailing costs exceeding twenty dollars.

  • Nonprofits can avoid the photocopying requirements by posting their forms on the Internet. The material may either be posted on a nonprofit's own website or at another site that functions as a database of information about nonprofit organizations. However, several requirements must be met with the posting before nonprofits can be exempt from the photocopying requirements.

  • Nonprofit employees are subject to fines of twenty dollars for every day they fall behind in providing the form(s), up to a maximum of $10,000 per return. In addition, a $5,000 penalty for "willful failure" can also be applied.

  • The final regulations also include guidelines on how nonprofits should handle requests if they feel they are the subject of a harassment campaign. The IRS has said that it will publish in the near future information about how it will identify harassment campaigns and set up appropriate fines and penalties for the perpetrators.

  • The new disclosure regulations will not affect private foundations. In 1998, Congress mandated that disclosure of private foundations' Form 990-PF conform with the requirements for other nonprofits. However, the IRS must still issue those regulations, and until those regulations are finalized, private foundations will continue to follow their own rules on disclosure.

    NACs should note that this is not an exhaustive summary of the regulations, but discusses the major points. Contact the Project Office for more information.

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