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5 Places To Search for a Nonprofit’s Tax Returns

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Antoine

You may be wondering, are nonprofit tax returns public record? The answer to that question is yes! A nonprofit’s tax returns from the last three years are public record for the purposes of transparency and accountability. If you want to find out about a specific nonprofit’s tax filing practices, there are several online sources you can use, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Candid, among others. 

To provide you with more information on this, we will cover:

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What Is a Nonprofit Tax Return?

The IRS requires that large and small nonprofits alike file their tax returns using Form 990, also called the "Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax." This IRS nonprofit form helps charities, churches, and other organizations justify their tax-exempt status. With Form 990, they must report their nonprofit tax deductions, exemptions, W-9s, write-offs, executive salaries, activities, and more.

Some states also have their own forms. For example, nonprofits in California are required to file the California 199N form. 

Pro Tip: There are various types of Form 990, including 990-EZ, 990-PF, 990-N, and 990-BL. Knowing the version of Form 990 that a nonprofit corporation uses can tell you a lot about its gross receipts and assets before you even look at the return. 

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Where To Search for a Nonprofit Tax Return?

There are a number of reasons you may want to search for a nonprofit's tax return. For example, if you prefer to donate to small nonprofits, you can view 990s from charitable organizations in your community to find some that bring in under a certain amount.

nonprofit-tax-returns-search-where-to-searchTristan is pondering where to find nonprofit tax returns...he's about to find out!

Whatever your reason for seeking out this data, we have identified five websites to go to obtain a nonprofit’s tax return, annual report, and other tax information:

  • Nonprofit website

  • IRS

  • Candid (formerly GuideStar and Foundation Center)

  • ProPublica

  • CitizenAudit

Nonprofit's Website

The nonprofit's website should be the first place you look because it often has an entire page devoted to financial documents. Showing where money goes is usually something that an association likes to promote, so contributions, exemptions, and other financial numbers are typically pretty prominent. Sometimes you may even find the nonprofit’s letter of determination from the IRS. 

If you cannot find this financial information after searching for a few minutes, try typing the association’s name in a search engine. There is a chance that the financials are not on an easy-to-find page. In that case, searching Google can take you to the proper link much faster.

Pro Tip: If you still cannot find a nonprofit’s tax return, contact a representative directly via email or phone. They will either be able to help you themself or put you in contact with someone else who can.

IRS

The IRS website is one of the most comprehensive sources for nonprofit tax returns. The Tax Exempt Organization Search is an IRS 501(c)(3) search tool where you can search by nonprofit tax ID, name, or location to find:

  • Form 990 series returns

  • Publication 78 data

  • Automatic revocation information

  • Letters of determination

The agency even allows bulk data downloads if you want to request all of the above information about a given nonprofit corporation.

Candid

Candid aggregates IRS data, making it available on its website. Candid is a valuable resource as an individual who is trying to:

  • Vet whether a given nonprofit is worthy of their donation 

  • Find out which nonprofits work together

  • Access all of a nonprofit’s information in one convenient place

ProPublica

ProPublica’s Nonprofit Explorer is an easy-to-use website that provides the public with access to nonprofit tax returns from as far back as 2001.

While the website is not flashy, it holds a lot of useful information. You can search by organization, person, or even text. For the organization function, you can:

  • Enter a name, keyword, or city

  • Select a state

  • Select a nonprofit category

  • Choose an organization type

CitizenAudit

CitizenAudit hosts an online database of nonprofit tax returns. The organization claims to be "The nation's only full-text searchable database of nonprofit Form 990s."

The website offers:

  • Keyword search: Search millions of Form 990s by keywords.

  • Filing alerts: Receive notifications when new filings go live.

  • Custom and structured data: Create custom lists of nonprofit profiles and documents.

All of this information does come with a cost. With a basic single-user license starting at $349.99 per year and going up as you add more users, it is not a resource for the casual searcher.

nonprofit-tax-returns-search-where-to-searchSam is checking out some of these platforms right now!

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Final Thoughts

While every nonprofit’s tax information is public record, it is not always easy to locate the necessary forms. Nonprofit tax code is notoriously complex. That is why we created this list of resources.

Before donating or otherwise supporting religious organizations or other tax-exempt organizations, go line by line through their list of nonprofit expenses. The more you know about allowable expenses for nonprofit organizations, the more you can ensure that only the best ones get your support. 

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FAQ

💡How do I find the 990s of nonprofits?

You can find a nonprofit’s 990 online at the nonprofit’s website and the IRS’ website. You can also look to third-party organizations, such as Candid, ProPublica, and CitizenAudit. Find out more. 

🔑 Are 501(c)(3) financials public?

Yes. 501(c)(3) financial records are public information. Find out more. 

📝 Who can access nonprofit tax returns?

Anyone can find and inspect nonprofit tax returns. Find out more.

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Antoine
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