Friday, February 3, 2017

First Open Source Release of Code that Reads Digitized IRS Form 990 Data


Charity Navigator is dedicated to the advancement of informed giving. In the United States, most organizations exempt from income tax under section 501(a) must file an annual information return called the Form 990. These documents contain a wealth of information about each organization’s operations, finances and governance practices. Philanthropists, regulators, researchers and others rely on the IRS Form 990 as a crucial public record of nonprofit governance.


Historically, these documents were completed and mailed into the IRS. More recently, organizations began to submit them digitally. And within the last year, the IRS began to make the digitized data available to the public.

While this is a great advancement for the sector, many have found these original electronic records to be difficult to work with. That’s because the original Form 990 dataset consists of more than a million individual files. The encoding scheme for these files varies from case to case, and the file structure alone makes them very difficult to retrieve. 

To make it easier to explore this data, Charity Navigator has just launched the Digitized Form 990 Decoder. The open-source collaborative project  features a database of more than 1.7 million tax records, of which over 900,000 have been processed. 


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