IRS Unleashes Flood of Searchable Charity Data

Peter Olsen-Phillips in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: “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.

“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.

…Despite the enhanced transparency, much nonprofit data will remain hard to find and laborious to analyze, as nearly a third of all 990s were filed on paper in 2015.

Mr. McLean said it’s mainly smaller nonprofits that opt to file a paper 990 with the IRS, adding that he hopes recent legislative efforts to require mandatory electronic filing gain traction….(More)”.