ProPublica has added more than a million new tax records for tax-exempt organizations to Nonprofit Explorer, making it easier to assess the finances of charities operating across the nation.
The update includes more than 900,000 filings published by the Internal Revenue Service from recent fiscal years, resolving a yearslong delay that had stymied regulators, journalists and donors. The filings, known as Form 990s, detail how organizations have carried out their public interest mission and disclose executive pay, as well as grantmaking and fundraising activities. Tax-exempt organizations must submit them annually.
We’ve also added more than 400,000 older tax records that had been missing from our database, primarily dating back to 2016 and 2017. This will make it easier to assess long-term financial information for nonprofit organizations.
These documents provide insight into a key sector of the U.S. economy, one that employs more than 12 million Americans.
"For charity regulators, the Form 990 series not only helps ensure transparency and accountability, but also provides vital information for state investigations into potential fraud and misuse of charitable resources," the National Association of State Charity Officials wrote in a letter to the IRS last year, urging officials to fix the agency’s backlog. "It is critical that the availability of that data be timely."
The new filings come after more than two years of limited or irregular data releases by the IRS, as the agency struggled with staffing shortages and, in January 2022, moved to a new system for releasing the forms.
Though the agency posted some new filings to its own website in early 2022, it also uploaded a batch of nonpublic forms by accident. After discovering the error in August 2022, it removed nearly two years’ worth of documents from its website and notified Congress of the mistake. Several months later, the agency reposted several batches of data, again including the nonpublic forms, an error it blamed on a contractor.
Asked about the delays in December, the agency said it was doing an end-to-end assessment of its posting processes before resuming data releases.
The new filings, which primarily cover fiscal years between 2020 and 2022, the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, are all now available on Nonprofit Explorer.
For regulators, donors, funders and researchers alike, the filings offer insights into the financial operation of nonprofits during turbulent economic years. “Now we can better understand in what ways they struggled, how they coped,” said Cinthia Schuman Ottinger of the Aspen Institute, who coordinates a group of nonprofit data practitioners. (ProPublica is a part of this group.)
“I’m hopeful that this cornucopia of 990 releases marks an improvement in the release of consistent and timely data on a regular basis.”