My friend Mark Shoemaker down in Austin, Texas sent me a note today, bringing this to my attention.
Most small U.S. tax-exempt organizations, other than churches, with annual gross receipts less than $25,000 a year, must file an annual Form 990 with the IRS before May 15th (May 17th this year, since the 15th is on a Saturday). If you don't file as required for three consecutive years, you automatically lose your tax-exempt status, and loss of that status means you'll have to start filing income tax returns and pay income tax. While most Masonic lodges are considered 501(c)(10) Domestic Fraternal Societies (which are not allowed to issue tax exempt receipts to donors for their donations, the form still has to be filed with the Feds.
In some cases, Grand Lodges may be filing a group form to the IRS. But in most, it appears that individual lodges, York Rite Chapters, Templar Commanderies, Scottish Rite valleys, Shrine Clubs, etc. must file their own. New Secretary's may not even know about this requirement. And if there is any question in your mind, contact your Grand Secretary before the filing deadline next week. I am NOT an accountant, so don't take my word for it.
The National Center for Charitable Statistics has an outstanding website for information about filing status, and it includes a search page to check and see if your group is in danger of losing its exempt status.
You can complete your Form 990 online at the following websites:
Form 990/Form 990-EZ: http://efile.form990.org/
Form 990-N (e-Postcard): http://epostcard.form990.org/
Thanks for the heads up, Shoe.
Just for the sake of clarification, from the IRS description:
Domestic Fraternal Societies (501(c)(10))
A domestic fraternal society, order, or association may file an application for recognition of exemption from federal income tax on Form 1024. The application and accompanying statements should establish that the organization:
Is a domestic fraternal organization,
Operates under the lodge system,
Devotes its net earnings exclusively to religious, charitable, scientific, literary, educational, and fraternal purposes, and
Does not provide for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to its members.
The organization may arrange with insurance companies to provide optional insurance to its members without jeopardizing its exempt status.