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Vote for America's Great Outdoors Ideas; File 990 or Lose Exempt Status

Advocates Alert: May 5, 2010

This alert opens with exciting news on America's Great Outdoors, but you can't afford to ignore the second half.  We're just 12 days away from May 17th, when some experts warn a quarter of all nonprofits could automatically lose their tax exempt status.  Even if your land trust has filed its 990, we need your help ensuring that no land conservation organizations ignore the new annual filing requirement!

Post and Vote for Ideas on the America's Great Outdoors IdeaJam

The success of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative depends on your participation!  A broad and enthusiastic response will help make the case for significant new funding and we need your help showing that the federal government can accomplish far more with its limited resources by working through land trusts and in cooperation with private landowners.

You should have a received a special alert on April 21, which shared exciting news and video from the White House Conference on America's Great Outdoors.  That alert highlighted several ways you can get involved and today we'll take a closer look at one of them: The America's Great Outdoors IdeaJam.

The IdeaJam is a creative social networking tool where anybody can post an idea and vote to "promote," "demote" or comment on ideas posted by others.  So far 71 ideas have been submitted, ranging from the expected, like increased LWCF funding, to the innovative, like debt for nature swapsEven the most popular idea, our own Making the Enhanced Easement Incentive Permanent, has just 62 votes, so just a few land trusts promoting their priorities could have a significant impact:

  1. Register to participate -- it's free and easy
  2. Vote to "promote" ideas that would help your land trust
  3. Post your own idea
  4. Join the conversation by commenting on ideas important to you
  5. Email your members and partners and urge them to vote!

Here are a few ideas submitted by members of the land trust community that you could vote for (register first):

To follow the latest news on this exciting initiative and find our talking points for submitting feedback, please visit our America's Great Outdoors page. You'll see we've posted new photos and video since the April 21 alert went out.

eNews Update on the Enhanced Easement Incentive: Since this item mentions the Enhanced Easement Incentive, we thought it prudent to add an update on the one-year extension moving through Congress.  House leaders recently announced their intention to consider the extenders package, including a one-year, retroactive extension of our incentive, on May 19. That would clear the way for final Senate passage before the Memorial Day recess. Subscribe to ADVOCATES for the latest updates and information on our campaign to make the incentive permanent.

25% of Nonprofits May Lose Tax-Exempt Status -- Don't be Among Them!

UPDATE: On May 18, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman issued a statement, reversing earlier IRS statements, that "the IRS will be providing additional guidance in the near future on how it will help small organizations maintain their important tax-exempt status -- even if they missed the May 17 deadline." He urged organizations that missed the deadline to go ahead and file anyway.

Since tax year 2007, even the smallest nonprofit organizations have been required to file some version of Form 990.  Organizations with gross receipts under $25,000 may file the 990-N e-postcard, with just 8 simple questions.  Please do it!  The consequences for not filing are steep.

Starting May 17, 2010, organizations that have not filed a 990 for three consecutive years will automatically lose their tax exempt status on the due date of their return: the 15th of the fifth month following the end of their fiscal year -- May 17 for calendar year filers (since the 15th is a Saturday).  Organizations that lose their exempt status cannot receive tax deductable contributions and will be required to pay taxes on donations and revenues. Please see:

We're particularly concerned about those small land trusts and partner organizations that may not be on our mailing lists.  Please help us reach them before it's too late! These fillings are a matter of public record, so we hope you'll take the time to search for organizations in your community and see if they filed in 2007 or 2008.  None of the search sites is perfect, but the best one is provided by the National Center for Cheritable Statistics, or you can check separate sites for 990-N filings (under $25k revenues) and 990 & 990-EZ filings.  If an organization doesn't show up on any of these, it's entirely possible their name scanned incorrectly or their 2009 filing hasn't shown up yet, but it doesn't hurt to forward this alert and make sure they're aware of this new requirement.

Please visit our Detailed Guide to the New Form 990 for information about the form and filing thresholds for the 990-EZ and 990-N, which have changed since last year.  Even if your organization is eligible for one of the short forms, we recommend you take a look at the full form and particularly the conservation easement questions in Schedule D.  Starting next year, organizations with gross receipts exceeding $200,000 or assets exceeding $500,000 will be required to file the full form and those are the kinds of questions the IRS is asking in audits of land trusts today.

Thanks for helping!

H.R. 1831 Co-sponsors Added Since Last Update

  • Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV/2nd)*

Click here for the full list.

*Member of the Ways & Means Committee!


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