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What is Form 990 or 990-PF? How can I learn about using them?

Exempt organizations must file some version of Form 990 with the IRS each year to comply with Federal regulations. Public charities file Form 990; private foundations file Form 990-PF (PF stands for Private Foundation).

Form 990-PF

Form 990-PF has information on a private foundation's assets, financial activities, trustees and officers, and, most importantly, a complete list of grants awarded for the specified fiscal year.

This list can be a vital tool for grantseekers when researching a foundation's past giving patterns, and will include the recipients' names, locations, and grant amounts. Some funders will briefly describe the purpose of each grant.

Learn more now about using Form 990-PF in your research with The Chronicle of Philanthropy's free toolkit, Mining the 990: A Guide to Gleaning Key Data From Charities’ Tax Forms.

Form 990

Form 990 has information on a public charity's finances and activities which is accurate and open to public scrutiny. Among the details included are the charity's assets, total figures for donations and grants received, board and top staff members, and whether the charity makes grants. However, charities are not required to publicly disclose names and addresses of contributors.

Public charities with annual gross receipts of less than $50,000 do not have to file the complete Form 990. Instead, they may file the Form 990-N, also called the "e-Postcard." This short electronic form informs the IRS that the charity is still operating, and it provides very basic information, such as the organization's legal name, location, EIN, and the principal officer’s name. You can search e-Postcard filings using the IRS's Exempt Organizations Select Check.

Grantmaking public charities, which include community foundations, do not have to list the grants they gave during the specified fiscal year, but some funders will include this information in their Form 990. This can help you learn more about a foundation's giving history. Please see our Diagram of Form 990 to learn more about using this form in your research.

See also our related Knowledge Base articles:

- Where can I find an organization’s Form 990 or 990-PF?

More articles about Forms 990 and 990-PF»

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