The redesigned Form 990 has been around for close to 10 years. The IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities’ annual report made some recommendations to help improve the form further, including mandatory online filing.
The IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT) released its annual report [PDF] last week, which included an examination of the Form 990 return filed by most tax-exempt organizations.
The report surveyed filers of the Form 990, Form 990-EZ, and Form 990-N to assess how organizations have adjusted to the form, which underwent a major redesign in 2007.
Form 990 provides savvy exempt organizations with a unique marketing tool
“The ‘new’ Form 990 has undoubtedly impacted the manner in which exempt organizations report their information to the IRS and the level of public disclosure of an exempt organization’s activities and financial information,” the ACT report said. “Taken as a whole, the Form 990 instructions contain a vast amount of instructional information about exempt organization purposes, activities and finances. The instructions are replete with examples – although survey responders continually asked for more – and the glossary (located in the instructions) is robust.”
The report does make several recommendations for changes, however, including support for a congressional mandate to require electronic filing of the Form 990 series. Currently, only tax-exempt organizations with $10 million in assets are required to file electronically.
“We recognize that mandatory e-filing will require updates to the IRS computer systems,” the report said. “The IRS is in desperate need of a long overdue and significant technology upgrade.”
The report also recommends convening a task force comprised of representative stakeholders to determine which parts and schedules of the current Form 990 and related instructions should be updated, enhanced, or deleted to allow a clearer understanding, better accuracy, and consistency of reporting by Form 990 filers.
“[T]he Form 990 provides savvy exempt organizations with a unique marketing tool,” the ACT report said. “However, all the data in the world is not valuable unless it is accurate, consistent, and timely. The current Form 990 and supporting schedules contain line items that are not intuitive, data that is not designed to be comparable, and instructions that can be nebulous and difficult to master. … [With] the move toward web-based technology and customer education and outreach, might an on-line, interactive Form 990 … be a valuable tool for small and medium-sized filers?”