Public Resource wants to liberate tax records for US nonprofits - converting 100lbs of scanned bitmaps on DVDs into searchable data on $1.5T worth of activity

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23 Responses to “Public Resource wants to liberate tax records for US nonprofits - converting 100lbs of scanned bitmaps on DVDs into searchable data on $1.5T worth of activity”

  1. jandrese says:

    Maybe this is one of those issues where a WeThePeople petition would actually shine some light on the subject and maybe convince the White House to open up a bit?  

  2. Kevin Pierce says:

    They print it so they can scan it so they can burn it so they can ship it! Woo Hoo!

  3. snapdragon says:

    It’s only fair. I mean, the phone metadata and email metadata, and credit card transaction metadata they’re collecting on me is all in the form of 200dpi TIFF, right? Right? Right!!?

  4. Eric0142 says:

    Why don’t you draft a bill and lobby a member of Congress to introduce and pass it?

  5. -hms- says:

    I’ve got a bunch of blank rewritable CDs and DVDs just gathering dust…maybe we should scan handwritten letters to the IRS + exec, load them onto the discs and send them along. maybe seeing their a reflection of their ridiculousness in the shiny surface will help them see the light.

    • howaboutthisdangit says:

      I’ll type up an email, print it out and mail it to you so that you can scan it and put it on DVD.

  6. Bill Glover says:

    NoCal FTW!

    I propose we call this issue AOLGate.

    Seriously, though. I’m really hoping this works out and sets a precedent, but I expect more delay. It would not surprise me if the data reveals some embarrassingly massive but politically tricky tax shenanigans that have been generally known but low priority for the IRS for years.

    Should we start a pool on how long it will take before the administration claims it’s a matter of national security somehow?

    Maybe each of those DVDs is a special anti-terror frisbee?

  7. Marc45 says:

    You’re looking at it from a practical user standpoint.  From the point of view of the government, the $2,850 per year you spend employs the folks that run the operation.  They would be putting themselves out of a job if they made the information easily accessible online.  That’s how most government agencies think anyway.

    • Boundegar says:

      Actually, the IRS has ergonomics people on staff, and they demand their managers find ways to cut waste and create efficiencies. Obviously, these CD’s are part of a program that nobody has looked at in a long while.

      But remember that 20% of the IRS is laid off right now, thanks to the sequester, and the head of TGTE is on “administrative leave” because the Tea Party said so. Also, they’ve been badly underfunded since Reagan decided they were the problem. Much harder to get things done under these conditions.

      The petition is actually a great idea. Management pays attention to those at every government agency. Also, the IRS has a Taxpayer Advocate office that might be able to get some change – they have a fair amount of clout.

      • Marc45 says:

        Perhaps I was too harsh towards IRS employees.  On the other hand, the article makes it sound like a truly useful idea is either being ignored or squashed by the administration.

        It would be nice if the government would just do the right thing by default instead of needing a petition.

  8. equilibrist says:

    Wow, a Cluetrain reference. 

    Setting my boss’s homepage to Cluetrain may or may not have contributed to my early departure from that, circa 1999, job.  He did not know how to change it.

    Seriously, this is just the .gov at work.  Obfuscation, obstruction, complication.  Techniques that only equal job security for the rather mundane  personnel that low level .gov jobs attract.

    I would love to see the government employees (at any level) held to the same standards that private business requires.

    • blissfulight says:

      You mean like Comcast, Halliburton, Blackwater, AT&T, Facebook, Enron, Time Warner, BP, Bank of America…?  

      • Boundegar says:

        No no, the magical corporation where everybody is awesome and there is no waste, fraud, or abuse. The one where everybody is paid what they are worth, and nobody ever steals the pension fund. You know, the one where life is fair.

  9. nixiebunny says:

    If the government is so enthralled with paying people to do all this pointless work to make DVDs, then perhaps they could pay some other people to OCR the TIFF files and post the actual numbers as HTML to the public on their website. 

  10. LinkMan says:

    I’m trying to wrap my head around situations where “too much transparency” is a bad thing.  What exactly is the concern?

    That burglars would use the data to fish for well-paid non-profit executives whose houses they could rob?  I’d think the XML Edgar data for public companies would be much more fruitful.

    That it would be too easy to make lists like this that shame bad charities?

    Seriously, I’m trying to understand the counterargument.

  11. DJBudSonic says:

    Or, you could go to GuideStar where you can view non-profits IRS Form 990′s and other financial returns that show most if not all of the financial activities, payroll, etc.  That is what I do, instead of ordering the full DVD set.

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