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E-Filing Means Big Data for Nonprofits

Published Monday Feb 3, 2020

Author Judi Currie

E-Filing Means Big Data for Nonprofits

The Taxpayer First Act of 2019, which was signed into law on July 1, requires all tax-exempt organizations that are required to file a Form 990-series return to now e-file their returns.

In 2016, the IRS began releasing electronic data via Amazon Web Services’ Public Datasets Program. For the first time, machine-readable data was available to anyone who wanted it. But it only covered electronically filed 990s; those filed by paper and mailed were not captured in the data set and remained unreadable by machines.

The new law creates the ability to parse and analyze the entirety of the 990-filing portion of the nonprofit sector.

“Researchers and analysts will have a massive trove of data to work with and will be able to look at sector characteristics and trends that were impossible to parse just a few years ago,” says Kevin Doyle, a senior program analyst at Charity Navigator. “Meanwhile, more granular analysis, such as the ratings we do at Charity Navigator, will become more efficient, and we will be able to incorporate more and better data into our rating methodology than ever before.”

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