The IRS says it’s currently working to make e-filed Forms 990 available to the public in a machine-readable format (also known as Metadata Exchange Format or MEF) by early next year. The move is expected to make it easier for the public to search for information about nonprofit finances and operations.
In a statement the agency said it has been “actively considering” a 2015 court ruling that ordered it to produce nine nonprofit tax forms in an MEF. The ruling followed a legal battle with Public.Resource.Org, an open-records advocacy group. The organization coordinated an effort to get the IRS to release its database of electronically filed Forms 990 by mobilizing media organizations and nonprofits to file Freedom of Information Act requests.
“The IRS has been actively considering how to incorporate new technology into its exempt organization return processing capabilities in order to better support the exempt organizations and those who use the Forms 990 data,” according to the statement. The MEF solution will ensure that sensitive or personally identifiable information continues to be protected from public distribution, according to the agency. Extraneous information — that which isn’t required by the Form 990 series and related schedules — won’t be included in the electronically released material, it said.
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