IRS Form 990 PF: Private Versus Public Foundations

If you administer a foundation and are unclear about which IRS forms you should be reporting with, Form 990 or 990-PF, this short review may be of some use.

First of all, what is a foundation?

A foundation (also a charitable foundation) is a legal categorization of nonprofit organizations that will typically either donate funds and support to other organizations, or provide the source of funding for its own charitable purposes.

So what is the difference between a private foundation and a public foundation?

A private foundation derives its money from a family, an individual, or a corporation – like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In contrast, a grant-making public foundation – such as the Boston Foundation – derives its support from diverse sources, which may include foundations, individuals, and government agencies.

As an exempt organization, which form do I use for my annual filing to the IRS?

While public foundations file Form 990 like other public charities, private foundations file Form 990-PF.  These filings are public documents and have valuable information about an organization’s finances, trustees and officers, and, most importantly, a complete list of grants awarded for the specified fiscal year.

For more information on the filing requirements of the private foundation, check out the IRS’s website on the Life Cycle of a Private Foundation. You can also click here to get started filling out your form 990 PF with PDFfiller.