Protect Your Social Security Number


Your Social Security number (SSN) is a gateway into your credit/financial information and a desired asset for any identity thief.

The IRS realizes the importance of keeping it secure and strongly advises exempt organizations not to include SSNs on publicly disclosed forms.

  • Don’t put Social Security numbers on applications for tax-exempt status or any 990 series information form.
  • Don’t include them on the form or any attachments.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a publication for nonprofit leaders, fundraisers and grant makers based in Washington, D.C. stated in a recent article that nearly one in five exempt organizations-20 percent- have submitted forms with one or more Social Security numbers.

  • Most SSNs were those of donors, trustees, employees, directors and scholarship winners.
  • Slightly more than a third of the SSNs were tax preparers (nor using PTINs). The study’s information used 2001-2006 returns.

In some cases, an organization took a document prepared for some non-tax purpose that contained SSNs- a list of scholarship winners, for example- and attached it to the Form 990.

Small organizations aren’t the only culprits making these errors.

The Chronicle reviewed the Forms 990 of the 12 organizations at the top of its Philanthropy 400 ranking of charities.

Of the twelve, three organizations- 25%- had published at least one Social Security number.

The burden isn’t yours alone.

The IRS put a reminder in the disclosable forms and their instructions, including:

  • Form 990 & 990-EZ
  • Form 990-PF
  • Form 5227
  • Form 990-T
  • Forms 1023 & 1024 (On the notice attached to return)

So remember, protect your identity and refrain from putting SSNs on disclosable IRS forms.

Photo credit: morebyless via Visual hunt / CC BY



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