How to Protect Your Tennessee Nonprofit
Get Business Insurance
As with any other business, there may be risks involved in running the nonprofit. Getting insurance for your nonprofit allows you to focus on your passion while minimizing your liability.
Here are some of the common types of insurance you may want to consider for your organization:
- General Liability Coverage
- Directors and Officers Coverage
- Social Service Professional Coverage
Your coverage needs will vary based on your organization and the work you do.
Properly Sign Legal Documents
There will be times when you will be signing a document on behalf of your nonprofit. It is important that these times are easily distinguishable from when you are signing a document as an individual. If a document isn’t properly signed, you might suddenly find yourself personally responsible for something the organization should have been liable for.
To avoid such confusion we recommend you and all the members of your organization follow the following format:
- The official name of your nonprofit
- Your signature
- Your full legal name
- Your position in the organization
How to Keep Your Tennessee Nonprofit Compliant
File Required Periodic Reports
You must file an annual report with the Secretary of State of Tennessee - Division of Business Services every year by the 1st day of the 4th month after the close of your fiscal year.
NOTE: Most organizations have a fiscal year end on December 31. In this case, your annual report is due by April 1.
You can prepare your form online and send by mail, or file online.
Determine Tennessee Business Permits and Licenses
Local business licenses across the state of Tennessee are regulated by individual counties and cities. Contact your local city clerk’s office to find the requirements for your organization in your area.
You can also use the Small Business Administration’s Business License & Permit Lookup tool.
If your organization falls in one of the following categories then you do not need to register prior to soliciting for donations:
- Religious Organizations
- Educational Institutes
- Volunteer Fire Departments
- Political Organizations
- Hospitals and Nursing Homes
- Congressionally chartered organizations that submit financial reports to the Secretary of Defense
All other Tennessee nonprofits that will be soliciting for charitable donations need to register with the Charitable Solicitations Division using Form SS-6042.
We recommend you read the official guidelines before filing.
If your organization will have employees you must register with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development
220 French Landing Drive
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: (615) 741-2486
Public Inspection Rules for all 501(c)(3) Organizations
All organizations that have been granted the 501(c)(3) status are required to disclose the following documents to the public when requested:
- Annual returns for 3 years after the due date (this includes returns like Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, and any Forms 990-T)
- All Form 990 Schedules (except portions of Schedule B), attachments and supporting documents.
- Application of exemption and all supporting documents such as Form 1023
- The official paperwork from the IRS that shows that your organization has tax-exempt status.
The following do NOT need to be shared with the public
- Portions of schedule B of Form 990/990-EZ that identify the contributors. (You only need to disclose the amount contributed and the nature of the contributions)
- Any unfavorable rulings such as an earlier denial of tax-exempt status.
- Any information the IRS has said you can withhold. This may include things like sensitive patents and trade secrets.
How long do I have to produce these documents if requested?
Ideally within the same day. If your organization doesn’t have an office or maintains limited hours during parts of the year, the information should be made available within two weeks.
Do I need to provide copies of the documents?
If someone asks for copies in person or in writing you must provide them with copies.
Can I charge for copies?
You can charge a reasonable amount for making copies of the documents requested.
NOTE: It may be easiest to have the documents available on your website so that anyone who requests copies can be sent to the site. This allows you to stay compliant without having to spend a lot of time dealing with document requests.
Annual Returns for Tax-Exempt Organizations
Most tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are required to file an annual return with the IRS (Check the list of exceptions).
Which form you should use to file the annual returns depends on the annual gross receipt amounts for your organization.
"Gross receipt" is defined by the IRS as “the total amounts the organization received from all sources during its annual accounting period, without subtracting any costs or expenses”
- For gross receipts ≤$50,000 --- File 990-N
- Gross receipts <$200,000 and total assets <$500,000 --- File 990- EZ
- Gross receipts >$200,000 or Total assets >$500,000 --- File 990
For any questions, you can call the IRS at
- (800) 829-3676 (Form-related questions)
- (800) 829-1040 (General information)
When is form 990 due?
You have a little over 4 months after your taxable year comes to an end to file Form 990. It is due on the 15th day of the 5th month. So if your taxable year ends on Dec 31st, your form 990 is due on May 15th.
NOTE: If your organization fails to file form 990 for 3 consecutive years, it will automatically lose its tax-exempt status.
Report Unrelated Business Income
If your Tennessee organization has a gross income of ≥$1000 from a trade or business that is not related to the stated purpose of the organization, then it must file Form 990-T to pay tax on that income.