• Cinthia Schuman

    Thank you for your article, and for referencing Rick Cohen, as well.

    One important takeaway is the usefulness of open data on the finances and operations of nonprofits. Todd Wallack’s Boston Globe article draws from the electronically-filed Form 990 data released by the IRS to Amazon Web Services. Since June 2016, the IRS has provided this data in a machine-readable format for free.

    However, we wish to clarify one point for readers.

    The assertion that “only one in seven nonprofits file electronically” does not refer to Form 990 e-filing rates overall. According to the latest statistics from the IRS, over 60% of nonprofits electronically file their tax forms.

    Wallack was making the point that fewer than 1 in 7 nonprofits file the standard 990 electronically each year, which is the only form that asks a question about the diversion of assets.

    Foundations and other smaller organizations file different versions of the form (such as the 990 EZ, 990 PF and 990 N) which lack the diversion question. Furthermore, many nonprofits, such as churches, religious schools and other faith-based institutions, are not required to file the form at all.

    An effort to require all applicable nonprofits to e-file their tax forms is underway. In the meantime, we wish to recognize the significance of the e-filed data already released by the IRS, which indeed represents a major portion of all nonprofit tax forms.

    Rachel Pulley and Cinthia Schuman Ottinger, Nonprofit Data Project, Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation, The Aspen Institute