990s are publicly available.
If you put social security numbers in the return, those numbers are now publicly available too.
Check to make sure you don’t included any soc numbers in the return.
The IRS distributes returns monthly for a small fee. The buyers are putting all of the returns out so the public can see them. You can find your returns at GuideStar, Public.Resource.Org, and I don’t even know where else.
The latest reminder that some charities are including social security numbers in 990s comes from an article in Chronicle of Philanthropy: Activist Challenges IRS Over Release of Social-Security Numbers on Tax Forms.
Suzanne Perry reports that Carl Malamud, of Public.Resource.Org, continues to find soc numbers in 990s. He sent letters to 36 NPOs telling them of their law breaking.
The most jaw-dropping is a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, who reportedly put in their 990 the names and soc numbers of all scholarship recipients.
An article from the Chronicle back in April 2012, Many Nonprofits Include Social Security Numbers in Public Documents, Study Finds, says Identity Finder went through 3,000,000 returns from 2001 through 2006 and found 132,000 charities that listed at least one social security number in the 990.
That creates a potential liability for those charities.
Warning applies to CPAs personally
Some of the incidents were the CPA preparing the return using his or her own social security number on the return for identification.
CPAs, for your own protection, please get a PTIN.
(Background – The IRS will issue, for a fee, a unique number to return preparers – this PTIN can be put on the return to identify the preparer.)