FAQs - Charity Check

Q: Can I use a third party such as Candid to obtain BMF data concerning a potential grantee’s public charity classification?

  • A. Yes! IRS Revenue Procedure 2011-33 allows grantors to rely on third-party resources, such as Charity Check, to obtain required Business Master File (BMF) data concerning a potential grantee's public charity classification under section 509 (a) (1), (2) or (3).

Q: Can I deduct a contribution?

Q: How do I access the PDF Charity Check Report?

  • A. You can download a PDF version of the Charity Check report by making a call to the Charity Check PDF API.

Q: Can I rely on Tax Exempt Organization Search to find an organization’s foundation classification or whether contributions to an organization are deductible?

  • A. Contributors and grantors may rely on either the Tax Exempt Organization Search or the Exempt Organizations Business Master File Extract (EO BMF). Both are updated monthly, although not necessarily on the same day. To assist with searches, the IRS publishes the date the information was posted.

Q: Is there a field in the Charity Check API that identifies the last time an IRS Revocation List was processed? I’m aware of the revocation_date and reinstatement_date fields, but those would only be populated for NPOs that were revoked or reinstated at least once. Is there a method that would allow me to make a single call to retrieve this information?

  • A. Unfortunately, there is not an explicit field for the last date a revocations file was processed. We will keep that in mind for future API releases.

Q. How frequently does the Charity Check API pull and update a revocation list from the IRS?

  • A. We ping the IRS website every 20 minutes and download the big three files (BMF, Pub78, Revocations) when we detect changes. Occasionally, the IRS will update the files in the middle of the month, but not change the date on the website. The most likely file to be updated mid-month is the Revocations file. When it does, we process it and push it out to products in less than 24 hours.

Q: Does the weekly IRB impact NPO status in terms of tax status? We are trying to determine what information is being updated to an NPO from this bulletin.

  • A. The Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB) is the authoritative instrument for announcing official rulings and procedures of the IRS and for publishing Treasury Decisions, Executive Orders, Tax Conventions, legislation, court decisions, and other items of general interest.

Q: Which field represents an NPO’s headquarters?

  • A. In the GuideStar Premier API you can use the field “is_national_hq”, in the data/summary section, to determine if the NPO is considered a headquarters. Note that the Premier API uses a separate license from a standalone charity check license.

Q: Is there a field that indicates an organization is not US-based?

  • A. Yes, you can reference the Deductibility Status Description field and filter by code: FORGN to flag these organizations, and cross-reference the organization address. Organizations with this status description are classified by the IRS as “A foreign-addressed organization. These are generally organizations formed in the United States that conduct activities in foreign countries. Certain foreign organizations that receive charitable contributions deductible pursuant to treaty are also included, as are organizations created in U.S. possessions (deductibility limitation dependent on various factors).”

Q: I know that organizations that have just achieved their tax-exempt status can send their letter of determination to GuideStar in advance of being listed on the IRS BMF/Pub78 to be included on the GuideStar website. Is this data available via your Charity Check API as well?

  • A. No, this advanced status data is not currently available via the API, it is tentatively planned to be included in the next version of the Charity Check API.

Q: Does every record list a most recent IRB date regardless of if the organization is listed on the IRB?

  • A. Yes, a most recent IRB date is listed on every record.

Q: Is it correct to assume that Bulletin Number, Bulletin URL, and Bulletin Effective Date would only be populated if an organization is listed on a bulletin?

  • A. Yes, that is correct.

Q: What happens if an organization is listed in January and then again in March? Do you only show the most recent bulletin number/URL and associated date?

  • A. Yes, the most recent IRB will be listed.

Q: Being listed in the IRB doesn’t necessarily mean an organization was revoked–for example, it might mean it’s under investigation– so do you list all entries so we can look at what exactly was said about the organization in question?

  • A. Yes, the link to the IRB is provided for that reason.

Q: What happens if the organization’s status was revoked and then is reinstated? Do you wipe these fields out, or do they stay on the record?

  • A. Yes, they remain on the record for research purposes.

Q: Is the IRB Last Modified field the date that you updated the IRB related fields?

  • A. Yes, it will be populated for the organizations that appear on the IRB.

Q: Is the purposes of the IRB related fields collectively to enable a grant maker to flag an organization for further research/due diligence – not to screen them out – correct?

  • A. Yes, that is correct.

Q: The Charity Check occasionally (though rarely) doesn't reflect the same data--for example, an organization’s name--that is shown on GuideStar website. Why is that?

  • A. The guidestar.org website relies on the GuideStar database and the Charity Check API relies on the IRS BMF, IRS Publication 78, as well as the GuideStar database. There may be differences with the data due to its ever-changing nature, which is why we provide fields directly from all three sources for comparison.

Q: Can you share more about your data sources and processes?

  • A. Candid processes paper and electronic annual filings daily. The volume for these varies from a low of 12,000 to a high of 130,000 in a given month based on the time of year and what the IRS releases. In addition to annual filings, we monitor and pull in updates from multiple IRS backbone data sources listed below as well as the OFAC SDN list:
    • Exempt Organizations Business Master File Extract (EO BMF)
    • Tax Exempt Organization Search (formally known as Pub78)
    • Automatic Revocation List
    • IRS Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB)
    • OFAC Specially Designated National (SDN) List

  • While there is an official published cadence for each of these, we have found anomalies in the IRS’s posting schedule, so we proactively scrape the IRS website every 20 minutes and download the big three files (BMF, Pub78, Revocations) to determine if any file has changed. If that process detects a change, we process the file and update our database accordingly.

  • Regarding anomalies, while there is an official schedule the IRS publishes, occasionally they will update the files off-cycle (for example, mid-month) without changing the date on the website. The most likely file to be updated mid-month is the Revocations file. When this happens, we process the change and push it out to products in fewer than 24 hours.

  • We cannot independently validate the information in these files, so we do not maintain ‘quality’ metrics along those lines. We do, however, test the BMF and Pub78 files before loading them to ensure that the volume of changes to any individual field are within a statistical range based on historic patterns. If any changes fall outside of those ranges, we put the load on hold, research the issue, and engage the IRS if we find what we believe is an error on their part.

  • We also take steps to enhance the data we receive in several ways. Examples of this include the use of address correction software, the application of NTEE codes from the NCCS, geo coding (lat/long), and the addition of CBSA/MSA, PCS, and SDG codes.

Q: Does the Charity Check API contain data from state nonprofit registries?

  • A. Yes, the California endpoint provides data from the California Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts and Franchise Tax Board. More information about the Charity Check California endpoint can be found in the California endpoint guide.