IRS Improves Charitable Search Website
By Jeffrey S. Gold
Posted on 1/26/12

The IRS has recently revised its charities search capabilities to better help taxpayers check an exempt organization’s federal tax status. It encompasses three different databases that were formerly found in separate locations.

Access the IRS’s revamped charity search engine at IRS.gov, and then select “Search for Charities” from the menu on the left side of the screen. Click “Exempt Organizations Select Check” in the middle of the screen. You will see a screen similar to the one to the right. (This is just a picture of the actual screen. Click on it to go to the actual online application.)

The first radio button, “Are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions” (which has been selected in the illustration below), is the charities search that was previously found here—the old “Pub 78” or “Yellow Book” list of all deductible charities. The IRS updates this list on the third Monday of each month. A useful new feature in the revised search engine is the ability to search for charities by EIN. This also gives you the ability to find a charity’s EIN by searching for it by name. In addition, the IRS has made the deductibility status code more intuitive: For example, private foundations are “PF” rather than “4.”

The second choice, “Were automatically revoked,” lists organizations who have had their exemptions revoked for failing to file for three consecutive years. This list is also updated on the third Monday of the month.

The final choice, “Have filed Form 990-N (e-Postcard),” lists organizations with yearly receipts under $50,000 that have e-filed that simplified form rather than Form 990 or Form 990-EZ. This list is updated weekly. An e-Postcard requires only the organization’s name, address, EIN, tax year, detail for one officer, confirmation that receipts are under the threshold, and (if applicable) its website address, any DBAs, and a statement regarding the termination of the entity. Private foundations, most supporting organizations and political organizations are not eligible to file the e-Postcard.

Use quotation marks to limit searches. For example RED CROSS will find all organizations that contain either the string of letters RED or CROSS in their name (over 10,000 results). However “RED CROSS” will return only organization that have that exact string of characters in their name (12 results).

State Information, Too

The New York attorney general’s Charities Bureau Registry Search provides a tax-exempt organization’s New York State registration number, address, registration type (7A, EPTL, or Dual), and also has downloadable PDF copies of all filings since 2006, including the New York annual filing (which usually has a copy of the Federal annual return attached to it), IRS tax-exempt application (Form 1023), IRS determination letter and other documents. Pre-2006 documents on file with the Charities Bureau are listed but cannot be downloaded.

New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs has a similar search engine in its Directory of Registered Charities.

Jeffrey S. Gold is vice chair of the NYSSCPA New York, Multistate & Local Taxation Committee.