Being a Non-Profit Legally and Competitively

Most chambers are 501(c)(6) non-profit organizations and need to adhere to the IRS guidelines for record keeping. Non-profit organizations are required to file 990's, which are public information and available

Record-Keeping Guidelines

IRS 501(a) Compliance Guide for Tax-Exempt Organizations, including 501(c)(6)
  • States that: Record Retention Periods vary depending on the types of records and returns. (page17)
    • Permanent Records – Some records should be kept permanently. These include the application for recognition of tax-exempt status, the determination letter recognizing tax-exempt status, and organizing documents, such as articles of incorporation and by-laws, with amendments, as well as board minutes.
    • Employment Tax Records – If an organization has employees, it must keep employment tax records for at least four years after the date the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.
    • Records for Non-Tax Purposes – When records are no longer needed for tax purposes, an organization should keep them until they are no longer needed for non-tax purposes. For example, a grantor, insurance company, creditor, or state agency may require that records be kept longer than the IRS requires.
IRS Public Disclosure and Availability of Exempt Organizations Returns and Applications: Documents Subject to Public Disclosure
  • Lists what tax documents an exempt organization must make available for public inspection and copying.
Document Retention Policies for Nonprofits from the National Council of Nonprofits
  • Document retention policies are one of several good governance policies that the IRS highlights on the IRS Form 990 by asking whether the filing nonprofit has adopted a written record retention policy. This guide describes the documents that should be retained, but each non-profit is responsible for following the IRS guidelines.
Model Document Retention Policy for Nonprofits from BlueAvocado
  • Example template for a document retention policy.
KnowledgeBase: How long should nonprofit organizations retain business-related records? Answered by GrantSpace
  • Retention periods vary for different types of records or documents. Nonprofit organizations should have a written, mandatory policy for document retention and destruction that complies with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The retention periods suggested in the resources below are intended as general guidelines only. Nonprofits are advised to seek legal counsel regarding your own document retention policies.
Association Management Principles e-book, By Bob Harris, CAE
  • See the chapter on “Seven Organizational Skills,’ starting on page 9; and see page 6 which references 2 footnotes:
    • 6. The appendix includes a reference to nearly every document and tips for creating and maintaining (pg. 17)
    • 7. Public records for 501(c) organizations include Form 1024 or 1023, Form 990 for up to three years, and the IRS Letter of Designation.
The Grand Rapids Chamber provides this fact sheet, How Long Must My Business Keep Its Records? to download from their informative page on Business Advice Articles.

See more on Bookkeeping/Financial Management best practices.


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Last Updated: 12/5/2017

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