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Self-Post Your E-Filed Form 990 on GuideStar

Three tips show you how.

August 2007
from the AICPA

Do you have clients concerned that electronically filed Form 990 returns are not being posted to GuideStar in a timely manner? GuideStar — a searchable database of more than 1.5 million IRS-recognized nonprofit organizations — has recommended a temporary solution to this problem.

Problem: GuideStar has become the resource for easily obtaining a copy of a charity’s Form 990. Since 1994, GuideStar has requested copies of all Forms 990 filed with the IRS and publishes the returns in a searchable database on the free services section of the organization’s Web site.

Beginning with the 2005 Form 990, the IRS requires certain exempt organizations to e-file the returns. E-filing is mandatory for larger organizations. Other organizations see e-filing as the future of tax filings and although not required, are electing to e-file Form 990. The dilemma now is converting the e-filed data to a tax return GuideStar can post on its Web site. This can cause some early adopting charities to decide against e-filing because they want their returns posted on the GuideStar Web site. Both the IRS and GuideStar assure organizations and practitioners the inability to publish returns is a temporary problem.

Solution: An organization with an e-filed return may send a PDF of its return to GuideStar for immediate posting free of charge. GuideStar offers eDocs as a paid service which allows organizations to post other organizational documents including financial statements and determination letters. Until the IRS and GuideStar resolve the issues preventing the posting of e-filed returns, GuideStar has advised us that they will waive the $15 fee for posting the organization’s Form 990.

Steps for sending GuideStar a copy of an organization’s e-filed return:

  1. Remove Schedule B, if applicable, from the copy of the return transmitted to GuideStar. Do not send a Schedule B with the donor names and address redacted. GuideStar does not post the Schedule B.
  2. Returns may be sent via regular mail or e-mail, attention Customer Service.
    1. Mailing Address:
      GuideStar — Customer Service
      4801 Courthouse Street
      Suite 220
      Williamsburg, VA 23188
  3. E-Mail: customerservice@guidestar.org

Indicate in the cover letter or e-mail accompanying the Form 990 that the return was e-filed and is being provided to GuideStar on a no-fee basis as the return is unavailable from the IRS. The documents submitted directly to GuideStar will show up on a list separate from the documents received directly from the IRS. The listing of “Forms 990 From the IRS” as currently formatted is listed immediately beside “Additional Documents From the Organization,” on the GuideStar Web site. To provide additional substantiation the return was e-filed with the IRS, the organization may submit the e-filing acceptance notice it received from the IRS. When the problem is resolved, GuideStar will publish the Form 990 received from the IRS in the “Forms 990 from the IRS” listing. GuideStar will continue to separately display the copy of Form 990 provided by the charity. Both the IRS and GuideStar hope to resolve this situation soon.

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This article was contributed by members of the AICPA Exempt Organization Technical Resource Panel, written by Jane M. Searing, Clark Nuber P.S. and edited by Mary Rauschenberg, Deloitte Tax LLP, Debra Cook, KPMG and Naomi Horsager.