Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wiki 990

Its not easy to make tax forms exciting, but I'll try my best. Every 501 (c) 3 in the U.S. files an annual tax form called the 990. This form provides basic data on finances and functions of these organizations. The data are, to be kind, less than perfect. The form is, to be kind, less than perfect.

This is why the policy folks at the Urban Institute and the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) are excited that the IRS is finally going through a process to revise the 990 form. As the NCCS folks say, this is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity.

You can find out more about the IRS process and the form here. Better yet, you can get involved directly in improving the form and the process by going to the newly posted "990 Wiki". You can comment on the various form sections, make suggestions, and provide direct input to the process.

Why should you bother? Do you work for a nonprofit organization? Donate to one? Use the services of one? Ever been to a museum, served at a soup kitchen, played at boys and girls club, swam at the YMCA or volunteered to a "friends of park and rec" organization? Then you know the role that nonprofits play in our world. The data on these forms is the primary source of information about nonprofits. These data are used by GuideStar, CharityNavigator, the Better Business Bureau, major foundations, and individual donors. Accurate and useful 990 data are critical to the media. $290 billion in U.S. giving to nonprofits depend on these data, directly or indirectly. So, yes, the forms matter. Help make them better.

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