Tax law will open private school doors

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Clinton signed into law significant tax code revisions late last summer that will make it easier for students at private schools to get access to their institution’s tax returns.

A private non-profit organization must now provide form 990, its annual tax return, to any person who requests it. Returns must be available for the past three years. If requested in writing, a response must be given within 30 days. If the forms are asked for in person, they must be provided immediately.

The new law will provide greater access, for example, to student journalists reporting on salaries and other costs at private universities. Previously, on-site inspection of form 990 was required by law, but organizations were not compelled to photocopy the material.

Penalties for willful non-compliance with the disclosure requirement increased from $1,000 to $5,000 under the new law.

The law also states that organizations may not charge for providing the information, other than nominal copying, postage and handling costs.

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