The Soapbox and Toolbox for New York State's Nonprofits

June 16, 2016

IRS Releases Unprecedented Amount of Searchable Charity Data

From the Chronicle of Philanthropy 
By Peter Olsen-Phillips

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 the 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.

"With e-file data, you can easily and precisely extract individual items on the form," Carl Malamud, an open-government advocate and the president of, wrote in an email. The nonprofit works to make public information more accessible, and Mr. Malamud has been at the forefront of efforts to liberate data on the nonprofit sector.

(The Chronicle of Philanthropy was one of several media organizations with which Public.Resource.Org coordinated to request e-files in 2015 and it later helped test the IRS’s system for distributing e-filed 990s.)


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