IRS Releases 990 Data in Machine-Readable Format

The IRS announced in June 2016 that the information on all electronically filed Form 990 returns, about 60 percent of total Form 990s, will be available in machine-readable format through Amazon Web Services.

Previously this Form 990 data was only available in image files, and the data wasn’t generally accessible despite the public inspection requirements in place.

With this announcement, data—including filings from 2011 to the present—will be available for download as XML files via AWS. The publicly available data doesn’t include donor information or certain personally identifiable tax identification numbers, but that should come as no surprise because that information has historically been excluded from public-inspection requirements.

There are a number of benefits to this release of data:

  • The data will be more widely available and easily accessible to researchers and data scientists who can use the data to provide more insight into the non-profit sector.
  • Users will have access to all publicly disclosed data (rather than the limited portion that was economically viable to transcribe in the past). This allows a first look at data that has never before been analyzed.
  • It will reduce the cost of human transcription that many organizations have incurred in the past.

Both the accessibility and analysis of this data will provide increased transparency within the sector.

While all organizations are required to file, only very small and very large organizations are required to file electronically. To remedy this, Senate Bill 2750 was introduced on April 6, 2016, and calls for mandatory e-filing of Forms 990. It’s been said that there’s very little controversial material in this bill, and it will further increase transparency in the not-for-profit sector if it becomes law.

If you’d like more information about the new format or filing electronically, contact your Moss Adams professional.

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