I'm a practitioner in the 990 space, and I've had several clients recently concerned with Guidestar's practice of displaying Gross Receipts as the only revenue number on the pre-login page. As you know, Gross Receipts includes items that do not represent an "accession to wealth" as traditionally understood, such as return of capital on sales of capital assets. My clients have been concerned that using Gross Receipts instead of Gross Revenue may mislead general readers of the form as to the organization's actual revenues, particularly in a year where they may have had unusually high sales of securities (such as when there are major changes in investment portfolios). And because only one year's information is available prior to login, Guidestar's reporting in those years could significantly misinform a member of the public as to the size and extent of the organization's normal revenues and operations.
As I understand the purpose of Guidestar, it is to make public disclosure simpler and more streamlined, both for charitable organizations and for readers of information returns. Because this information is provided to Guidestar directly by the IRS in an effort to make important information about charitable organizations easily available to the public, would it not be more accurate to report Gross Revenue instead of Gross Receipts prior to Guidestar's login wall? The public can't access actual Forms 990 without providing an email address and name in order to create a login, and if someone were trying to look up an organization anonymously, Guidestar doesn't offer anything other than Total Assets and Gross Receipts in terms of financial information.
So I have two questions. Is there a reason Guidestar displays Gross Receipts instead of Total Revenue, and what is the purpose of requiring a login to view Forms 990? By requiring people to disclose their contact information, public disclosure is not truly anonymous when using Guidestar. Especially for infrequent users, requiring a login discourages the public from accessing detailed information that would better inform their understanding of Gross Receipts, as displayed on the pre-login summary. Would Guidestar consider changing the financial information it shows on an organization's pre-login summary to Gross Revenue and Total Assets instead of Gross Receipts?
Thank you for your time and attention!