A new survey found that tax-exempt organizations frequently expose social security numbers (SSNs) to the public when filing Form 990 tax returns. Those individuals most frequently exposed were tax preparers, donors, high school and college scholarship recipients, employees, directors, and trustees, but others may also have been impacted.
The company who conducted the study found that for tax years 2001 through 2006, more than 18 percent of the Form 990s reviewed published at least one SSN on their public tax return, even though SSNs are generally not required. The survey included over 2.8 million Form 990s, and found that 132,362 organizations published 472,886 SSNs during that time period.
Form 990s are open to public inspection, and both the Internal Revenue Service
(IRS) and multiple third parties regularly publish the data.
The most frequently reported SSNs were those of tax preparers, who should be identified by their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) rather than by their SSN.
The survey company is recommending that nonprofits:
- Review their Form 990s and notify any individuals whose SSNs were published that they may be at increased risk of identity fraud, and
- Avoid including any personal information of their Form 990s or other public forms, especially SSNs
In addition, it recommends that the IRS publish explicit guidance to inform nonprofits that SSNs should not be included on Form 990s and other public documents.
For a summary of the findings, please visit Accounting Today
. To check if your organization exposed SSns and to review the full report, please click here
The information contained in this blog is not intended to be tax advice, is of a general nature, and is based on authorities that are subject to change. Application to your specific situation should be determined in consultation with your tax advisor. IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: Any tax advice in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.