Nonprofit Tax Help

David McRee, CPA

Form 8868 Extension of Time to File IRS Form 990 / 990-EZ

Download my helpful instructions on how to fill out Form 8868 (both the old form and the new form)

It is not at all unusual for an organization to need an extension of time to file their Form 990. Sometimes the annual audit isn't finished, sometimes the CPA is too busy, sometimes the financial records are not yet in order. Whatever the reason, the first extension request is automatically granted. But you still have to file the extension request form on or before the due date of the Form 990. If you are one day late filing the extension request, it is not valid and the IRS will charge a penalty each day the Form 990 is late.

If the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, then the next business day is treated as the due date. Example: If the May 15th due date falls on a Saturday, then the return (or extension request) must be filed by Monday, May 17th. However, I must warn you that the IRS computer does not deal with alternate due dates very well and sends out a lot incorrect penalty notices. My advice is to file all extension requests several weeks before the 15th, regardless of which day the 15th falls on.

 See the video on my foolproof method of mailing documents to the IRS.

Requesting an Extension

If the organization's tax year began in January 2016 or later, it will use the new Form 8868 that was issued in January 2017. This new form provides one six-month extension instead of two three-month extensions.

Here is a link to the new Form 8868 that offers a 6 month extension.

Old Form Still in Use For Certain Fiscal Year-Ends

If the organization's tax year began in 2015, then it will need to use the old Form 8868. Most organizations filing extensions in 2017 will be using the new Form 8868. However, there are still some organizations using a fiscal year that began in 2015 that will have to use the old form. The last time the old Form 8868 will be used will be for organizations with a fiscal year that ran from December 1, 2015 through November 30, 2016. The original due date for that organization would have been April 15, 2017. The first extension would extend the due date until July 15, 2017. The second extension will extend the due date until October 15, 2017.

Here is a link to the old Form 8868 that provides two three-month extensions.


IMPORTANT UPDATE: For tax years beginning AFTER December 31, 2015, the IRS is offering one 6-month extension rather than two three-month extensions. The new Form 8868 was made available in January 2017. You can find it on the IRS website by typing 8868 into the search box on the "current forms" tab. Look for the "January 2017" or later revision date in the upper left of the form. That way you know you have the right version of the form.


Using the Old Form 8868 to Request an Initial 3-month Extension

The last use of Form 8868 to file for an initial 3-month extension of time to file a return was due to be filed on April 15, 2017 as discussed above. This initial extension was requested by filling out and filing page 1 of the Form 8868. It is no longer relevant, however page two of the old form is still relevant for certain organizations. See below. 


Requesting a Second Three-Month Extension of Time to File Form 990

Part 2 of Form 8868 is used to request an additional 3 month extension. You'll need to give a reason. Here are the two most common reasons I've given over the last 12 years, as applicable to the situation at hand:

"Additional time is needed because the organization is waiting for the completion of the annual independent audit of the financial statements."


"Additional time is needed to assemble documents and records necessary to file a complete and accurate Form 990."

Extending the Due Date of Form 990-T

If your organization is required to file Form 990-T because it has Unrelated Business Taxable Income, and if you need an extension of time to file Form 990-T, you must file a SEPARATE Form 8868 for the 990-T.

You only need to apply for one extension for the 990-T because the extension that pertains to the 990-T is for 6 months.

If you are not sure whether the organization will need to file Form 990-T, I recommend that you consider filing a "protective" extension," just in case. This is particularly recommended for organization's like 501(c)(6) business leagues or other non 501(c)(3) organizations that engage in lobbying and have members that pay dues.

State Corporate Tax Return

If you are filing a Form 990-T, you may also need to file a corporate income tax return with the state in which you operate. So be sure to get an extension for the state corporate return as well. The 990-T reports taxable income, which is often taxable at the state level as well.