NAICU Washington Update

IRS Announces Public Release of Electronically-Filed Form 990

July 06, 2015

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced plans to make electronically-filed versions of Form 990 available to the public in a machine-readable format in early 2016.

The IRS has been pursuing how best to incorporate new technology into its exempt organization return processing, and adhere to recent court rulings on making already publicly-available 990s easier to access. Previously, the IRS provided access to Form 990s in a non-searchable format for a fee. While this change will allow easier public access, the IRS would still take steps to ensure that sensitive or personally identifiable information continue to be protected from public access.

The IRS announcement follows:

IRS Works towards Making E-Filed Forms 990 Available In Machine-Readable Format

The IRS has been actively considering the district court's ruling in the Public.Resource.Org case, where the district court ordered the IRS to produce electronic versions of the publicly available portions of nine exempt organization returns (Forms 990) in MEF, Metadata Exchange Format (or machine-readable format). Machine-readable is not a format that the IRS has historically used to make Forms 990 available. The IRS did produce the Forms 990, but those forms were manually processed in order to comply with the court's ruling.

The IRS has been actively considering how to incorporate new technology into its exempt organization return processing capabilities in order to better support the exempt organizations and those who use the Forms 990 data. The IRS has made substantial progress in developing a technology solution that, when perfected, will allow the IRS to provide electronically-filed Forms 990 in a machine-readable format. This solution will ensure that sensitive or personally identifiable information continues to be protected from public distribution. The IRS expects that this technology solution should be in place in early 2016.

Currently, when the IRS distributes Forms 990 series information under section 6104 or the FOIA, it includes all information and documents (other than information that must be restricted under section 6103 or is PII) submitted by the exempt organization. When the IRS begins to provide the e-filed Form 990 data in machine-readable format, as described above, it will stop including extraneous information provided by exempt organizations when they file their Forms 990 series. Extraneous information includes information that is not required by the Forms 990 series and related schedules.

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