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Home > Taxation > Form 990: A Practical Guide
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Knowledge Level
Copyright 2015

Publication Date
January, 2015
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Form 990: A Practical Guide
Introduction Organization Learning Objectives Author Bios

Title: Form 990: A Practical Guide
Prerequisite: None
Advance Preparation: None
Knowledge Level: Basic
Subject Matter Area: Taxes
Date of Publication: January 2015
Copyright © 2015 by Thomson Reuters/Tax & Accounting. All rights reserved.
Recommended CPE Credits:  
     Textbook w/Video Online: 11 QAS/Registry (based on 50-minute hour)
     Textbook Only & Online: 9 NASBA Registry QAS Self-Study (based on 50-minute hour)
Expiration Date: One year from date of receipt to complete program and submit quizzer to obtain credit
Passing Grade for Quizzer: 70 percent or higher

Tax-exempt organizations have federal tax and legal rules largely different from those that apply to for-profit organizations. These rules can be complex and somewhat esoteric. From a federal tax perspective, charities are divided into two major classes: public charities and private foundations. Each class has its own special tax rules, governance provisions, and tax reporting obligations. Generally, when reference is made to tax-exempt organizations in these materials, it will be to public charities rather than private foundations, unless specific mention is made of private foundations.

The tax reporting rules relating to tax-exempt organizations are complicated by unique governance rules relating to how charities are organized, conduct their activities, and interact with major donors and others with substantial influence over the organization. Because governance issues are so important, Congress has mandated that charities are the only tax reporting organizations that must publicly disclose their Form 990.

Most information tax-exempt organizations provide on Form 990 pertains to organizational governance and organizational compliance with various statutory requirements relating to how the organization and its founders, contributors, and board members deal with one another. As such, Form 990 is unlike other tax returns in that it does not focus on the calculation of the entity's taxable income. Form 990 does not even contain space for calculating the organization's tax liability when it has one. (This is calculated on a separate form—Form 990-T.) Although tax-exempt organizations can have an income tax liability, relatively few tax-exempt organizations actually incur an income tax liability.

Use of Materials

The user should begin by watching the streamed video segment, if any, or listening to the streamed audio segment, if any, for the chapter before reading the text. The user may wish to make notes of the most important concepts and any terms that are new. Next, the user should review the learning objectives at the beginning of the chapter and read the chapter. The user should work through each of the examples. After the user has studied each chapter, s/he should click on the link at the left to complete the interactive study questions. If the user answers a study question incorrectly, s/he should review the section of the text that is indicated at the end of the explanation to the study question to assure comprehension of the material. The user should review the learning objectives once more to consider achievement of the objectives. After the user has finished watching the streamed video, if any, or listening to the streamed audio, if any, and reading the text and working through the study questions, s/he may wish to review her/his notes and any sections of the text or video/audio, if any, that were difficult. When the user is ready, s/he should click on the link to the left to complete the quizzer. The user's CPE certificate will be provided immediately upon successful completion of the quizzer.

This program is divided into five (5) chapters.

Chapter 1 explains how organizations attain tax-exempt status and provides detail on the steps necessary to prepare Form 1023.

Chapter 2 examines the items that appear on Form 990, explaining many of the lines that are displayed on the form.

Chapter 3 focuses on the various schedules that accompany Form 990.

Chapter 4 discusses unrelated business taxable income (UBTI), delving into the proper tax treatment of UBTI, and lists deductions available to offset UBTI. It also explores Form 990-T and the circumstances that require charities to file this form.

Chapter 5 contains the glossary of frequently used key terms.

Helpful Guidance

Throughout this program, the user will find explanations and discussions regarding some of the issues that often face practitioners. In order to enhance the user's comprehension of the material and highlight important practical considerations, this program includes the following designations:

A CPEasy alert is intended to warn the practitioner of a particular situation that may require action or other consideration by the client or the practitioner on behalf of the client.

A CPEasy tip provides practical advice that may be used to help improve client service or service to the practitioner's organization.

A CPEasy point presents analysis or commentary that attempts to explain or clarify authoritative guidance.

Upon successful completion of this program, the user should be able to recognize the basic requirements an organization must meet in order to attain tax-exempt status under IRC §501(c)(3); complete Forms 990 and 990-EZ, as well as the various schedules that a not-for-profit is required to file; identify UBTI; and recognize filing requirements for Form 990-T.

Dr. Ian J. Redpath, JD, LLM, is a nationally recognized tax attorney and consultant from Buffalo, New York. He is a principal in the Redpath Law Offices in Buffalo and New York City where he specializes in tax litigation matters. Mr. Redpath has published numerous articles on contemporary tax issues and co-authored several books. He has extensive national and international experience in developing, writing, and presenting professional CPE programs. In addition to his active tax practice, he serves as a Professor of Taxation at Canisius College in Buffalo. (Author/Speaker)

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