By Maria-Jose Subiria
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is providing Georgia's small, non-profit organizations, that are at risk of losing their tax-exempt status, with an opportunity to preserve that status.
The agency is offering a one-time, special-filing relief program, until Oct. 15, for 8,260 small charities that failed to file required returns from 2007, to 2009, according to Mark Green, media relations specialist for the IRS.
Georgia's small non-profits may have fallen behind in providing the IRS with the required tax information, he said, because of a change in the law. In 2006, Congress passed legislation mandating that all tax-exempt organizations file annual tax returns with the IRS, beginning in 2007, said Green. This excludes churches and church-related groups, he added.
"This meant that very small organizations that had never filed before, would have to start doing so," he said.
According to the law, non-profit organizations who fail to file their taxes for three consecutive years, will lose their tax-exempt status, he said.
Green said, for the past three years, the IRS has conducted an extensive outreach effort, in order to alert these at-risk organizations of their filing responsibilities.
The IRS has sent more than one million letters to organizations about the filing requirement, as part of the effort, he said. "But even with that effort, we found when we got to May 17, the first date that would trigger the three-year rule ... many organizations still had not filed a return.
"We urge these small groups in Georgia to take a minute and make sure they've filed," said Green, in a written statement. "It's a very easy, quick process to file now, than to lose your tax-exempt status and face going back and reapplying."
Green explained that the program contains two parts. The first portion extends the filing deadline to Oct. 15, for non-profit organizations that have gross receipts of $25,000, or less, said Green. These groups should file Form 990-N, Electronic Notice, by visiting the IRS web site, www.irs.gov., he said.
The form will ask the organizations to provide eight information items, according to Green. "If an organization goes to our web site, IRS.gov, supplies those eight items, and files electronically by Oct. 15, it will be back in compliance, and its tax-exempt status will be intact," Green said.
In addition, the IRS is offering relief to organizations filing under Form 990-EZ, he said. The agency began a voluntary compliance program for these organizations, he added. The program allows them to file their three delinquent returns by the due date, and pay a small fee, he said.
Green said the IRS provides useful materials on its web site, including the names and last-known addresses of the at-risk organizations, and guidance on how they can get back on track.