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IRS Updates, May 2009: New TE/GE Commissioner, Tips for 990 Filers, Form 990-N, and More

The IRS's Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division (TE/GE) gets a new commissioner, launches a series of tips to help nonprofits and tax professionals file the new Form 990, and reminds smaller nonprofits to file their Forms 990-N. Exempt Organizations (EO) is also asking for the public's input on the new Form 990, improving the Charities & Non-Profits section of its Web site, and a new initiative to reach out to academic institutions that offer nonprofit degrees. And EO director Lois Lerner outlines ways to maintain public trust in charities during the economic downturn.

New TE/GE Commissioner

Sarah Hall Ingram has been named commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division. For the past three years, she has served as IRS chief of appeals, and from 2004 to 2006, she was TE/GE deputy commissioner. Before that, Ingram served as division counsel/associate chief counsel for TE/GE, providing legal services to TE/GE and other parts of the IRS. She began her IRS career with the former Tax Litigation Division in 1982.

Steven T. Miller, the current commissioner, is moving to the position of commissioner of the Large and Mid-Size Business Division. Miller has been TE/GE commissioner since 2004. From 1999 to 2004, he headed Exempt Organizations.

Revised Form 990 Filing Tips

The first two in a series of tips have been posted on the IRS Web site. One provides a checklist of items to consider before filing the form, the other tips and FAQs related to reporting compensation on the 990.

View the checklist
View the tips on reporting compensation

Form 990-N

The IRS is reminding smaller organizations that Form 990-N, also know as the e-Postcard, will be due for many of them on May 15. If your organization does not file a Form 990 because its income is less than $25,000 and your fiscal year ended on December 31, 2008, this means you. If your organization's income is less than $25,000 but your fiscal year ended on a different date, your Form 990-N will be due on the 15th day of the 5th month after your fiscal year ended.

By law, failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, or 990-N for three consecutive years will result in automatic revocation of exempt status. Revocations will begin in May 2010.

Read the announcement
Learn more about Form 990-N

Comments on the New 990

The Exempt Organizations Division is accepting comments on the 2008 Form 990. EO notes, "We will review these comments as we consider making future revisions to the Form 990, schedules and instructions and to identify areas where we might provide additional assistance through the EO Update, frequently asked questions, or other means."

E-mail your comments to Form990Revision@IRS.gov.

Read the request for comments (Note: There’s not much more to it than what you see here.)

Revising the Exempt Organizations Web Site

EO also wants your ideas on how to make the Charities & Non-Profits Section of the IRS Web site more user friendly as well as your suggestions for content that should be added to that section. The division has published a list of questions it would like you to consider when you send your comments. You can review them on the IRS Web site or in IRS Announcement 2009-25. The Web page has an e-mail link to use to submit comments, and the announcement provides the e-mail link as well as information on sending suggestions via snail mail.

EO just added a site map for the Charity & Non-Profits pages. You can access it from the link in the navigation bar on the left.

Read the questions on the IRS Web site
Read IRS Announcement 2009-25
Check out the EO site map

EO Outreach to Institutions Offering Nonprofit Degrees

EO's Customer Education & Outreach program is developing an initiative to collaborate with colleges and universities that offer degrees related to the nonprofit sector. The program would like feedback on the implementation of and content for this initiative, specifically:

  • General responses to it
  • Individuals and institution volunteers to provide more extensive input into and feedback on the initiative
More information, including instructions for snail mailing or e-mailing comments, is available in IRS Announcement 2009-26.

Read IRS Announcement 2009-26

Lois Lerner on Keeping the Public’s Trust

On April 6, 2009, EO director Lois Lerner spoke at Georgetown Law School about "Maintaining Public Trust in Charities during the Economic Downturn." Her comments included specific suggestions for how exempt organizations can build on the public's trust in the sector:

  • "Look at IRS Form 990 as a public relations tool."
    Donors, reporters, and watchdog groups look at the 990; make sure it accurately reflects your activities. "You need to make the Form 990 work for you; you don't want it to be used against you."

  • "Look at your governance practices."
    "An active and independent board is the best defense against the misuse of charitable assets, as well as against bad press." Additionally, disclosing your governance practices and policies to the public presents "another public relations opportunity to instill confidence and trust in the organization and set you apart in donors' minds."

  • "Take a close look at [your] executive compensation packages and practices."
    People are looking at nonprofit executive compensation more closely, and the new 990 makes it easier for them to do so.

Read the speech

Suzanne E. Coffman, May 2009
© 2009, GuideStar USA, Inc.

Suzanne Coffman is GuideStar's director of communications and editor of the Newsletter.
Topics: Law and Regulations