The IRS Moves One (Tiny) Step Closer To Open Source 990 Data

The 6/30/2015 edition of The Chronicle Of Philanthropy has an article by Suzanne Perry (h/t Joe Patti) that reports on the legal battle over making Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 filings available in “machine-readable format.” Granted, that phrase covers a lot of ground so don’t expect the final result to measure up to open data standards but at least this is a step in the right direction, even if it is moving at a glacial pace.

Adaptistration People 043The decision came by way of Federal Court and as of now, there are no provisions for converting existing 990s. We examined this issue in greater detail via an article almost exactly one year prior on Jun 23, 2014 and at that time we examined the numerous hurdles related to implementation and Perry’s latest article seems to be confirming those concerns.

According to the article, the IRS is planning to begin making 990s available in the new format by early 2016 but even then, there are no details on how that date interacts with the normal season-and-a-half gap between when nonprofit orchestras file their returns and when the IRS makes them available. Since there are no details about the process and final format the IRS intends to use, there is the possibility this could add extra steps into the existing process and cause an even longer delay.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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