News and analysis
August 09, 2016

How to Find a Charity's Expenses

Use this guide as a quick reference to find important information on nonprofit groups from the forms they’re required to file with the Internal Revenue Service.

Most federally tax-exempt groups must complete a 990, a 990-EZ, or a 990-N. Churches and state organizations are exempt. (Foundations must file a 990-PF.)

This guide shows where to find information in the 990, the 990-EZ, and any attached schedules. The 990-EZ is mentioned only where it covers a particular topic.

(The 990-N, filed by tiny groups, is essentially an e-postcard with only the most basic information.)

I want to find how much a charity spends on …

… total expenses.

    Go to Form 990, Part I, Line 18, which gives the sum of grants, benefits paid to members, salaries, benefits, professional fundraising fees and expenses, and so forth.

    On Form 990-EZ, go to Part I, Line 17

… functional expenses.

    Go to Form 990, Part IX, which gives expenses including grants, some wage and benefit information, payroll taxes, fees for services, advertising and promotion, office expenses, information technology, travel, and so forth.

From a Feeding America’s IRS Form 990

… grants paid.

    Go to Form 990, Part I, Line 13. This category can include other assistance.

    For details, go to Part IX, Lines 1-3.

    On Form 990-EZ, go to Part I, Line 10. 

… benefits paid to or for members

    Go to Form 990, Part I, Line 14.

    On form 990-EZ, go to Part I, Line 11. 

… salaries, other compensation, and benefits.

    For the total amount, go to Form 990, Part I, Line 15.

    On Form 990-EZ, Part I, Line 12.

… fees paid to professional fundraisers. 

    For the total, go to the main Form 990, Part I, Line 16a.

… fundraising expenses.

    Go to Form 990, Part I, Line 16b 

… other expenses. 

    For the total, go to Form 990, Part I, Line 17

    For a breakdown of what’s included as other expenses, go to Part IX, Lines 11a-11d and Lines 11f-24e

From a Goodwill Industries International’s IRS Form 990

    On Form 990-EZ, the total is in Part I, Line 16, and any explanation is in Schedule O.

Additional Information

See the resource section to find out where you can download charities’ tax forms and instructions, data on big grants and donations, and other information.

Organizations are required to file their 990s by the 15th day of the fifth month after the end of their fiscal year — so for groups that follow the calendar year, May 15. But nonprofits can get an automatic 90-day extension and may request a second one. So it’s common for a form due on May 15 not to be filed until mid-November. If a charity has filed its forms but they’re not yet available on a database like GuideStar or ProPublica, you may be able to get a copy sooner by contacting the nonprofit directly.

Most federally tax-exempt organizations must complete a 990 as a condition of their tax status. Churches and state organizations are exempt. 

Nonprofits that have gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets of less than $500,000 may file a Form 990-EZ, which requires less information than the full 990. Those that normally bring in less than $50,000 can file a 990-N e-postcard, which shows only very basic information, including the name and address of the group and the principle officer and confirmation of its gross receipts. 

The Chronicle’s 990 guides were compiled by Alex Daniels, Marilyn Dickey, Joshua Hatch, Megan O’Neil, Timothy Sandoval, and Eden Stiffman, with assistance from Lori Budnick, a CPA and partner at BlumShapiro, and Brian Mittendorf, a professor of accounting at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.