Secrets of Form 990


, Leslie Barnes, Quyen Tu


In this episode of the pod, we’re going to walk you through the types of information you can get from a 990. You’ll hear how that information is helpful to a variety of individuals including: a new Executive Director, board members, the press, staff, job applicants, donors, and more. 

Our Hosts for This Episode:

Jen Powis Leslie Barnes Quyen Tu


  • Why nonprofits are required to publicly disclose certain legal and financial information. 
  • The different kinds of Form 990s including: 
    • Form 990 
    • Form 990 EZ 
    • Form 990-N 
    • Form 990-PF 
  • When are Form 990s due? 
  • What are the penalties and fines for not filing?   
  • What can you find in a 990? 
    • Identity, Tax Status, and Tax Year
    • How Much Income Did the Filer Receive and From What Sources? 
    • How Did the Filer’s Total Expenses Break Down?  
    • What Can You Tell from Net Assets? 
    • Number of employees and board members, organization’s website, and EIN  
    • What Kinds of Programs Does the Filer Run and How Much Does It Spend on Them? 
    • Good Governance – Conflict of Interest, Whistleblower, Record Retention and Compensation Policies 
    • Who Are the Filer’s Board Members, Officers, Key Employees, and How Much Does Its Top Staff Get Paid?   
    • Did the Filer Initiate Some New Activity, Change Its Processes for Governing or Engage in Any Excess Benefit Transactions? 
    • Did the Filer Engage in Any Self-Dealing Transactions During the Year?  
    • Does the Filer Lobby? 
    • When nonprofits must provide copies of financial documents to the public 
  • In-person requests 
  • Requests in writing 
  • Charges for copying and mail must be arranged in advance 
  • Fines for noncompliance 
  • Filers who share their 990s on their website are not obligated to produce copies upon request 

As a reminder, this episode is just about the tax filing to the federal government (the 990) at the end of your fiscal year. Each state may also require a nonprofit public charity to file other types of forms, perhaps a copy of the 990, or some other tax filing. So make sure if you’re a staff person that you work with your bookkeeper to understand all the end of the year filings you need to provide.