Data from more than 1 million nonprofit tax forms are now available electronically to anyone.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today that publicly available data on electronically filed Forms 990 is available for the first time in machine-readable format through Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Data include filings from 2011 to the present and will be available as an XML file, downloadable from the web via AWS Simple Storage Service (Amazon3). The IRS will add new Form 990 filing data each month. Data from Form 990-N, the e-postcard, is not available with this data but can be access through the IRS website.
Form 990 data previously was available only in image files, which meant it was difficult to search or required laborious data entry from .pdf format to become searchable. Anyone can analyze the data in the cloud without having to download it or store it, lowering the cost of new data product development and accelerating analysis, according to AWS.
Electronic 990 data will provide access to additional data and save money for GuideStar, a clearinghouse of digital Forms 990 and other nonprofit data. “Though we can’t just flip a switch. It will take some work for us to ingest and share this data,” President and CEO Jacob Harold said. “As the IRS releases more data it will allow us to shift our attention to new sources of data and thus provide a more multidimensional view of nonprofits,” he said. Harold has previously said GuideStar spends about $1 million a year to digitize data from the IRS.
Data in a machine-readable format also will likely benefit state charity regulators, who will be able to analyze data more easily, possibly identifying fraud or abuse.
Finally having Form 990 in a machine-readable format is the result a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in 2013 by Public.Resource.Org, seeking the tax forms of nine tax-exempt organizations in Modernized E-file (MeF) format. Early last year, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the IRS to comply.
More than 60 percent of all Form 990 returns are filed electronically with the IRS. Both paper and electronically filed 990s will continue to have image files made and they will continue to be available by DVD, according to a news release from the IRS.
Most nonprofits file the simple Form 990-N, an electronic postcard. Organizations with annual gross receipts of less than $50,000 are required to file the e-postcard. Larger nonprofits would have to file Form 990-EZ or full Form 990.