Tag Archive for Form 990 Preparation

IRS Audits on the Rise for Tax Exempt Organizations

shutterstock_228440362Whether you are a board member, executive director, accounting manager or CFO of a non-profit organization, you should be aware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is increasing their audits of the Form 990.

Effective for tax years beginning in 2008, the IRS extensively revised Federal Form 990to include a new summary page, a new governance section, enhanced reporting of executive compensation and an organization’s relationships with insiders and other organizations and new reporting for non-cash contributions, foreign activities, tax-exempt bonds and hospitals.

Now that several years have passed since the 990 revisions, the IRS has commenced auditing Form 990s based on “data-driven” criterion. This means organizations will be automatically selected for audit if certain data is detected by this automated process. The shift to “data-driven” assessments of an organization’s compliance with the federal tax laws, means that Form 990 preparation is more critical than ever. A properly prepared and executed information return will ensure that an organization’s chances for random audit selection are minimized and that exposure to income taxes, both on unrelated business income tax as well as other income by virtue of loss of exempt status, are kept at the lowest level possible.

Continue reading the article here >>

990 Policy Compliance Series – Conflict of Interest Policy

Continuing with our 990 policy compliance series is a discussion about what is required for a sound conflict of interest policy. Everyone can agree that an entity that uses public, government or donated funds should have a policy to address potential conflicts of interest with those that are controlling the organization. On Part VI of the 990, there is a three-part question regarding the existence of a conflict of interest policy and its components.

First, what is a conflict of interest (COI)? The IRS defines COIs as a circumstance that arises “when a person in a position of authority over an organization, such as an officer, director, manager or key employee (as defined by the IRS), can benefit financially from a decision he or she could make in such a capacity, including indirect benefits, such as to family members or businesses with which the individual is closely associated.”

The following criteria must be met in order to answer “yes” to the three-part question on Part VI of the 990 regarding your COI policy:

  • #12a: Is there a written policy? Answer yes only if a written policy is in place, as of the last day of the tax year, that defines conflicts of interest, identifies the class of individuals to which the policy applies, facilitates disclosure of information that can help identify potential conflicts of interest, and specifies procedures to be followed in managing conflicts of interest.
  • #12b: Are covered individuals required to disclose potential conflicts? Answer yes only if officers, directors, trustees and key employees (as defined by the IRS) are required to disclose or update annually (or more frequently) information regarding their interests and those of their families that could give rise to conflicts of interest.
  • #12c: Did the Organization regularly and consistently monitor and enforce compliance with the policy? The IRS does not define how this is to occur, but, if the answer is yes, then a narrative disclosure describing the process of how the policy is monitored and how conflicts are dealt with is required on Schedule O. Schedule O is the supplementary schedule that is used to provide any narrative or other information to answer required questions throughout the 990 or to provide any information that would be useful to the IRS or reader of the 990. In describing the process on Schedule O, include the following:
    • Explanation of which persons are covered by the COI policy.
    • The level at which determinations of whether a conflict exists are made and at what level they are reviewed.
    • Explanation of what restrictions, if any, are imposed on individuals with a conflict, such as prohibiting them from participating in the deliberations and decisions regarding the transaction under review.

In our next post we’ll cover the process for determining compensation for top earners at organizations.

Read other articles in our “990 Policy Compliance” series:

Jeanne Pagnozzi Boston AccountantJeanne Pagnozzi is a manager in BlumShapiro’s Accounting and Auditing Department, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, Jeanne oversees attest and tax engagements and is responsible for engagement planning, staff supervision and coordination with client personnel to ensure successful completion of projects.

990 Policy Compliance Series – What is an Independent Board Member?

On the 990, the first questions regarding the governing body are how many voting members are on the board and how many of those members are independent. A member of the governing body is considered “independent” only if ALL of the following four circumstances were applicable at ALL times during the organization’s tax year (fiscal year):

1. The member was not compensated as an officer or other employee of the organization or a related organization (simply put, any entity that is a parent, subsidiary, brother/sister, supporting/supported organization to the filing entity at any point during the year – see Schedule R instructions for more complete definitions). The member also was not compensated by any unrelated organizations for services provided to the filing entity or to a related organization. There is an exception for receiving compensation as an agent of a religious order (there are specific conditions that must be met).
2. The member did not receive total compensation exceeding $10,000 during the tax year from the filing entity and/or a related organization as an independent contractor (not including reasonable compensation for services provided in the capacity as a board member).
3. Neither the member nor any of his or her family members was involved in any transaction with the filing entity which is reportable on Schedule L (Transactions with Interested Persons – see IRS Schedule L filing tips for more detailed reporting requirements).
4. Neither the member nor any of his or her family members was involved in any transaction with a related organization that is reportable on Schedule L.

The IRS specifically states that the following circumstances do not indicate a lack of independence as a board member:

1. The member is a donor to the organization.
2. Religious exception (as discussed above).
3. The member receives benefit from the organization by being a member of the charitable or other class that is served by the organization.

Further, the IRS expects the organization to engage in all reasonable efforts to obtain the necessary information in order to determine whether members are independent. A good conflict of interest policy can help with this effort. Stay tuned for a future blog post on effective conflict of interest policies.

Read other articles in our “990 Policy Compliance” series:

Jeanne Pagnozzi Boston AccountantJeanne Pagnozzi is a manager in BlumShapiro’s Accounting and Auditing Department, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, Jeanne oversees attest and tax engagements and is responsible for engagement planning, staff supervision and coordination with client personnel to ensure successful completion of projects.


990 Policy Compliance Series – Ensuring Transparent Governance and Operational Policies

As a tax-exempt organization, you are subject to a greater level of scrutiny from various sources than many other types of entities. Within the annual Form 990 filing, the IRS inquires about certain compliance, governance and management practices, which allows the government, donors and the general public to gain detailed knowledge about your organization. In Part VI of the 990, there are several policy and governance questions asked of filing entities, and, as laid out in the detailed instructions, there are some very specific requirements with which you must comply in order to answer affirmatively. Many of these policies are not legally mandated, and the non-profit faces no fines or penalties for not adopting the policies. However, all 990 filers are required to answer these questions, and certainly it is in the non-profit’s best interest to consider and adopt policies that help to ensure transparent and sound operational processes.

In the coming weeks, we will publish a series of posts on how to stay in compliance with certain 990 governance and operational policies as well as some further information to help you answer the questions appropriately.

Read other articles in our “990 Policy Compliance” series:

Jeanne Pagnozzi Boston AccountantJeanne Pagnozzi is a manager in BlumShapiro’s Accounting and Auditing Department, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, Jeanne oversees attest and tax engagements and is responsible for engagement planning, staff supervision and coordination with client personnel to ensure successful completion of projects.

Communication Between the Business Office and The Board

As a member of the business or finance office, you hold some of the most sensitive and important information regarding the operation of your non-profit.  Budgets, cash flows, obligations, covenants, financials, audit, internal controls, legal and regulatory matters….all of these can have a tremendous impact on how the individuals running the program activities accomplish their goals. Matters surrounding finance can provide stepping stones or significantly hinder the progress of the organization’s mission.

The finance office is charged with providing the most useful and pertinent information to the Board, which will enable them to fulfill their responsibilities of providing guidance and decision-making, most importantly surrounding fiscal matters.

Nonprofit Board meetingAs the CFO, Controller or Business Manager, have you thought about what you should be providing to the Board and in what format? Boards typically meet for an hour or two once a month or quarter. Given the limited time frame, this should be the time that they discuss critical matters, review accurate and timely financial reports and vote on high-level governance matters. Providing a great deal of extraneous data can muddle the waters and prevent them from understanding the true issues and being able to make timely resolutions. Here are a few areas to focus on which will help to ensure the Board has the tools to be most effective in fulfilling their responsibilities.

Organizational, legal and regulatory matters: 

First and foremost, the Board should be well informed of any and all potential risks that arise in these areas. Has the organization consulted an attorney for any claims or potential litigation? Are there new financial, reporting or other regulatory matters that are coming down the pike that may affect the organization? Significant accounting or audit standards, personnel matters, 990 reporting, communications from regulators, filing complications, due dates, donor matters, etc. can all have an impact on the organization and its ability to continue with its mission.

The Business Office should be preparing timely, summarized financial reports that are relevant to the Board’s responsibilities. Reports should be formatted in a way that does not confuse, overwhelm or complicate discussions surrounding finance.  Discuss with the Treasurer of the Board the most effective method of providing these reports. Have the Treasurer review the reports, and other more detailed information prior to submission to the Board, which may help to identify any questions or concerns ahead of time. It is probably helpful if the Board can review current month/quarter budget vs. actual reports as well as year-to-date compared to budget and prior years. A concise analysis of the significant activities of that period, such as large new contributions, significant past due balances or write offs and reserves, unanticipated expenses or capital purchases as well as high level departmental budget to actual comparison. Most importantly, having the most relevant and timely reporting available will enable the Board to make decisions on a timely basis, and avoid surprises at the end of the year.

Conflict of Interest and Related Party Activity: 
All Board members should be reading and signing a conflict of interest (COI) policy each year. All possible related parties and transactions should be disclosed in full, and any interested person should be excused from those discussions and determinations.  One misconception is that it is undesirable to have any related party activity, such as a Board Member who can provide professional services to an organization. Often times, a Board member can give back to an organization by providing expertise that the Organization would otherwise have to incur significant expenses for. This is ok, as long as regulation allows for it (for example, a financial statement audit must be conducted by an Independent Auditor), and provided that the Organization follows its COI policies surrounding disclosing, understanding and voting on these relationships and the transactions.  The Business Office liaison is often times the individual who ensures that the Board has all of the relevant information, that these matters get on the agenda and that the process adheres to approved policy.

Form 990: 
The Business Office is typically the department that ensures that the Form 990 is prepared timely and accurately. One section of the 990 includes several questions surrounding governance and policy. It goes without saying that the Board should be well aware of these policies at the time that they sign on to be a Board member. However, one question asks whether the Board has received a full copy of the 990 (as filed), and what the process is for the review of the 990. These questions are really aimed at shining a light on the Organization’s responsibility for ensuring that the 990 contains accurate information. Typically, the auditor/CPA is preparing the form, however there is so much more than quantitative data on the 990 as compared to any other IRS tax form. The qualitative data must come from the leadership of the Organization.  Each Board member should be aware of what is contained in the filing, and be expected to understand the questions and implications of the Organization’s responses.

As the key financial officer of a non-profit, the CFO or Business Manager should aim to provide the financial reports to the Board members in advance of their meeting dates. Having the appropriate amount of time to carefully review reports, budgets, forecasts and analysis will enable the Board members to prepare thoughtful questions and commentary on the information given.  This will set the stage for a more meaningful discussion and proposed responses, ultimately benefitting the mission of the Organization.


Jeanne Pagnozzi Boston AccountantJeanne Pagnozzi is a manager in BlumShapiro’s Accounting and Auditing Department, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, Jeanne oversees attest and tax engagements and is responsible for engagement planning, staff supervision and coordination with client personnel to ensure successful completion of projects.

2013 Form 990 – Significant Changes

The IRS recently released the 2013 Form 990, 990-EZ and related schedules and instructions. In addition, a summary of the significant changes has been posted to the IRS website.

Key Changes to the 2013 Form 990

  • The instructions clarify that a short period return can only be filed electronically if either the “initial return” or the “final return” box is checked. Therefore, a short period return that is the result of a change in the organization’s accounting period must be paper-filed. In addition, the instructions clarify that any organization that changes its accounting period must report adjustment required by Section 481(a) in Parts VIII through XI and Schedule D, Parts XI and XII.
  • The instructions clarify what documentation must be attached to Form 990 to support a name change, termination, merger, dissolution or revocation of exemption.
  • The instructions for Part VII clarify reporting requirements for compensation to directors for non-director independent contractor services to the organization and related organizations.
  • Appendix E to the Form 990 instructions has been updated to clarify that the public inspection and disclosure requirements apply to not only the original returns, but to amended returns as well.

There are many other changes to the 2013 forms and instructions. Click here for a complete list of the changes to the Form 990, Form 990-EZ and the related instructions and schedules.

Kevin Fontant Boston Tax AccountantKevin Fontana is a manager in our tax department, Kevin has over ten years of accounting experience and oversees and coordinates tax compliance services for many of the firm’s corporate, partnership and individual clients. His privately owned clients span industries such as multi-location retail, distribution, manufacturing and real estate. In addition, Kevin oversees the tax compliance services for several non-profit clients, including independent schools, social clubs, historical societies and private foundations.