The Internal Revenue Service this week rolled out Tax Exempt Organization Search, an online search engine that it said was designed to facilitate and expedite access to publicly available information about exempt groups.
“This new tool provides taxpayers an easy way to get information about charitable organizations,” Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said in a statement. “Tax-exempt organizations play a critical role in our nation, and this will provide greater insight for people considering donations.”
TEOS replaces EO Select Check, a six-year-old tool that mainly provided information on an organization’s tax-exempt status. EO Select itself replaced Pub 78, a cumulative list of exempt organizations.
According to the IRS, the new tool makes available for the first time images of newly filed 990 forms, which provide public information about nonprofit organizations, often the only information source available. At first, only 990 series forms filed in January and February will be available, with new filings added monthly.
Mobile-friendly TEOS will enable users to access more types of information than were available on EO Select, and look for information across multiple data files in one search.
In addition, they can read favorable determination letters issued by the IRS to an organization that applied for and met the requirements for tax-exempt status. Initially, a limited number of determination letters will appear on the system; eventually, determination letters issued since January 2014 will also be made available.
“The new search engine is a positive step forward for transparency,“ said Alexander Reid, partner in the tax practice of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and former legislation counsel for the Joint Committee on Taxation of the U.S. Congress.
“While the information was previously available for those of us who knew where to look, locating it in a single place and more searchable format should help the general public learn about the organizations they care about.”
Reid said giving more people access to information about nonprofit groups should help improve tax compliance and facilitate administrative oversight of the tax-exempt sector.
“This shouldn’t change the practical nuts and bolts of filing true accurate and complete information returns, but it does add an incentive to mind the details,” he said.
TEOS can be used to find all the information previously available on EO Select Check, including whether an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, has had its tax-exempt status revoked because it failed to file required forms or notices for three consecutive years and, for a small organization, whether it filed a Form 990-N (e-Postcard) annual electronic notice with the IRS.
The IRS said publicly available data from 990 forms filed electronically will continue to be available in a machine-readable format through Amazon Web Services.
— Related on ThinkAdvisor: