IRS Unleashes Flood of Searchable Charity Data

Source: Peter Olsen-Phillips, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 15, 2016

The Internal Revenue Service opened a gusher of information on nonprofits Wednesday by making electronically filed Form 990s available in bulk and in a machine-friendly format. The material will be available through the Public Data Sets area of Amazon Web Services. It will also include information from digital versions of the 990-EZ form filed by smaller nonprofits and form 990-PFs filed by private foundations. The change means the public will have quicker and more in-depth access to the 990, the primary disclosure document for and main source of information on tax-exempt organizations. The form includes data on groups’ finances, board members, executive pay, fundraising expenses, and other aspects of their operations. The filings were previously made public as PDF documents, requiring costly manual entry or imprecise character-recognition technology to extract the data in bulk and make it searchable. Now the information can be downloaded and parsed for free by anyone with a computer.

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IRS opens up Form 990 data, ushering nonprofit sector into the age of transparency
Source: Alex Howard, Sunlight Foundation, June 16, 2016

Making meaningful improvements to how the federal government uses the internet can take years, new laws, regulations, demonstration projects, testimony and dogged persistence by public interest advocates and reformers in the pursuit of change. Then, all at once, a dam breaks and a new resource blossoms into a commons online. June 15, 2016 was such a day, when the IRS has begun publishing electronic nonprofit tax returns online in a machine-readable format on Amazon Web Services. … Over the past decade, however, the IRS has not embraced publishing the tax returns of charities — called Form 990s — as open data with joy and enthusiasm, despite the clear value of opening the $1.6 trillion nonprofit sector to transparency and innovation. In fact, Malamud had to win a federal lawsuit to get the tax agency to do what it should have been doing anyway. After a federal court ordered the IRS to disclose Form 990s as open data in 2015, however, the agency subsequently announced that it would begin working to release all of the data from electronically filed nonprofit tax returns available in a machine-readable format online by early 2016. …