Publication 78

Before 2011, Publication 78 was published in paper form and served as the IRS list of organizations that qualify to receive tax-deductible donations. Since then, it has been replaced with the online database Select Check, renamed to Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) in May 2018, and augmented by several additional databases.

Publication 78 is the IRS database of organizations recognized by the agency as eligible to receive tax-deductible donations. It is a subset of the Exempt Organizations Business Master File (EO BMF). Publication 78 lists all organizations recognized by the IRS as 501(c)(3) public charities, but it does not distinguish between private foundations and supporting organizations described in IRC Section 509(a)(3). (That distinction is important to donors because private foundations have lower contribution deduction limits.) The online version of Publication 78, also called Select Check, separately categorizes supporting organizations.

It is a best practice for grantmaking foundations and DAF sponsors to memorialize their due diligence by documenting that they have used Publication 78 data or the Select Check search tool to confirm eligibility in order to exercise expenditure responsibility for grants made to supporting organizations. It is also good for those same funders to review the auto-revocation list and other relevant information available through the EO BMF and Tax Exempt Organization Search tools to ensure that an organization has not had its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS.

Publication 78 Paper Version
Publication 78 1

Publication 78 Paper Version

The IRS no longer publishes a paper version of Publication 78 but maintains three separate online search sites: Publication 78 data, the Auto-Revocation List, and the e-Postcard database. Revenue Procedure 2011-33 states that a private foundation may rely on the information in these databases to determine whether a potential grantee’s exempt status is still valid unless it has specific knowledge to the contrary.

The new Exempt Organizations Select Check consolidates these three former online search sites into one and allows for a more thorough search of the database by incorporating both Publication 78 data and the Auto-Revocation List. Prior to the launch of EO Select Check, these lists were updated on different schedules. Now both the Select Check Publication 78 data and the Auto-Revocation list are updated monthly. While this change should obviate the need for grantmakers to also check the Auto-Revocation List, a thorough foundation will likely continue to review both to ensure they are not missing any changes. EO Select Check can be used to search for nonprofits by employer identification number, name, state, and zip code. The search can also be narrowed by exemption type and revocation date.

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