A 2006 law required nonprofit organizations with receipts of less than $25,000 to file tax returns for the first time in 2007. If charities failed to file for three years, they were going to lose their tax-exempt status. The law excludes churches.
The deadline for filing a return was in May. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said the agency is extending the deadline to Oct. 15.
The IRS has identified 325,000 charities that did not file, but many may be defunct. The agency posted the names and last-known addresses for these charities on its website, www.irs.gov.
"It's really important for small charities to pay attention to this announcement. These groups do great work in communities across the United States and are vital to the vibrancy of our nation," Shulman said. "The last thing we at the IRS want to do is to have these groups lose their tax exempt status because they haven't filed a short simple form."
Charities losing their tax-exempt status would no longer be eligible to receive tax-deductible donations. The IRS plans to publish a list of organizations losing their tax-exempt status in early 2011.
Charities with gross annual receipts of $25,000 or less can keep their tax-exempt status by filing a short tax form. Larger charities with 2009 receipts up to $500,000, and assets up to $1.25 million can keep their status by filing delinquent returns by Oct. 15 and paying a fee ranging from $100 to $500, the IRS said.