The Catholic University of America

Summary of Federal Laws 


Miscellaneous Tax Issues

Form 990 and Public Disclosure Requirements

26 U.S.C. § 6104(d);

26 CFR § 301.6104(a)-1 et seq.; 64 Fed. Reg. 17,279 (Apr. 9, 1999)

Form 990 is an annual information return required to be filed with the IRS by most organizations exempt from income tax under IRC section 501(a). The Taxpayer Bill of Rights requires public disclosure of certain tax documents filed by tax-exempt organizations. See section 6104(e) of the Code. What follows is a summary of the highlights of the regulations. In addition, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires the public disclosure of Form 990-T by 501(c)(3) organizations. This requirement, for the 990-T, applies to those tax returns filed after the date of the enactment of the law. (August 17, 2006) Form 990-T is used to report unrelated business income tax.

What Documents?

The documents that must be made available to the public are:

  1. copies of the application for tax exemption (for those organizations which filed before July 15, 1987, this requirement only applies if the organization has a copy of the application on July 15, 1987); and

  2. copies of the organization's three most recent annual information returns.

Each annual information return must be made available for a period of three years beginning on the date the return is required to be filed, or on the date it is actually filed, whichever is later. Generally, the annual return information includes Forms 990, 990-EZ, 990-BL, and Form 1065, as well as all schedules and attachments filed with the IRS. The tax-exempt organization does not have to identify the names and addresses of the contributors to the organization. For those tax returns filed after August 17, 2006, Form 990-T must also be made available.

Where To Make Available?

This obligation may be fulfilled by making these documents available for public inspection without charge (except for cost of copying) at its principal, regional, and district offices during regular business hours. Posting the documents on the Web (in accord with 26 CFR 301.6104(d)-2) relieves the organization of the obligation to comply with requests for copies of the documents, but does not relieve the organization of the obligation to make the documents available for public inspection at its business office. If the information is posted, the entity should respond to requests for information by giving the requester the address of the Internet page where the information is posted, immediately if the request is in person, or within seven days if the request is written.

Charge for Copies and Time for Compliance

If the organization has not posted the material on its Web page in accord with the specifications, then it must promptly reply to requests for copies of the material. If the request is made in person, the organization must generally provide the copies immediately, that is, on the day a request is made, unless exigent circumstances exist (such as the day of the request is the day of student registration, or the amount of copying cannot be done in one day). Written requests must be responded to within 30 days from the date it receives the request, or if the organization requests payment in advance for the copies, then within 30 days from the date it receives payment.

The only charge that may be made is a reasonable charge for copying. The fee is tied to the IRS charge for copies of tax-exempt organization documents, which is currently $1.00 for the first page, and $.15 per page thereafter. If prepayment is not required, then consent should be obtained before filling a request that will exceed $20.00.

Format for Posting on the Internet

The following applies to the format that must be utilized when posting tax documents to the organization's Internet page. First, any individual with access to the Internet must be able to access, download, view, and print the posted document in a format which exactly reproduces the image of the original document filed with the IRS, except for information permitted to be withheld from public disclosure. Second, there must be no fee charged in connection with the above, and special software must not be needed for same, other than software freely available to the public.




NACUANOTES Dec. 19, 2006 The Pension Protection Act of 2006: Charitable Giving and Reform Measures Impacting Colleges and Universities: This is an excellent resource that gives an overview of all sections of this new law that impact colleges and universities, including the provisions on charitable substantiation. Many helpful hyperlinks included.


updated 7-27-18 mlo