QUESTION: How do I research a foreign non-profit that operates in the US?

question / pregunta: 

I'm trying to find out information about a Serbian non-profit operating in the US and many other countries around the world. (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). If they operate in the US are they required to file an IRS-990, or is that only if their headquarters are located in the country? And if I can't get their tax info, is there any other information that foreign non-profits are required to file with our government, or am I pretty much out of luck?


Answer posted by:
jim miller

The IRS has an Exempt Organizations Tax Code, Regulations, and Official Guidance, and more links at its Tax Information for Charities & Other Non-Profits site. But a search for the words: canvas, or strategies, or "all the words" Applied Nonviolent Action (or applied non violent action), in their Search for Charities, Online Version of Publication 78, gets zero hits.

Google gets 10s of thousands of hits for the full name in quotes, and you might try focussing it to edu sites: "applied non violent action" strategies site:edu (7 hits), "applied nonviolent action" strategies site:edu (26 unique of "about 46"), "applied nonviolent action" strategies site:eu (12 of "about 68"), etc. You might also try (states as well as federal reports and sites), which gets 5 for "Applied Nonviolent Action" strategies and 1 for: 5 for "Applied Non violent Action" strategies. I get only 2 hits in LexisNexis Academic for "Major world publications" all avail dates, all text, for: applied non violent Action and strategies. If you are near a large public or academic library, it would be wise to search their "National Newspapers", or "Proquest Newspapers", or individual large ones such as the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. The above Google or searches may lead you to names of people - or other related agencies or organizations - to try in more searches.

ANSWER: How do I research a foreign non-profit in US

You can search the full text of the U.S. Code for: foreign AND "non profit", which gets 24 documents. But you would need to use CTRL-F (or Mac's COMMAND-F) to find the search words in the often long full text. For full text searching, it's wise to use "proximity search", to find the words fairly close together. See their "Boolean and Proximity Connectors" at The search: foreign w/5 nonprofit gets 8 hits, but foreign w/5 "non profit" gets zero. Foreign w/25 "non profit" gets 1 hit, but CTRL-F non profit does not find it; non-profit DOES. So you will need to try not only a variety of search words or phrases, but also different combinations of CTRL-F to get to where those search words were found.

You could spend a good amount of time searching in this free site; but you may do well to try a commercial database such as LexisNexis Academic, Westlaw, or Hein Online - by going in-person to a large public university library, where most will allow guest access to their electronic databases on site. For example, LexisNexis Academic / US Legal / Law Reviews gets 17 hits for the search "foreign non profits". It then lets you change the title list display to "Expanded list", so you can see the search words highlighted where they appear in context, and you can then click them to zero in on that text. You also might want to compare LexisNexis or other legal databases' search with those free searches in the US Code website. Lexis Nexis Academic / US Legal / Federal Statutes, Codes & Regulations gets 14 hits for the search: "foreign non profits". You can experiment with adding more words: taxes, register, registration, etc. - but for very small results lists (25 and under), I am always reluctant to risk missing something because I didn't think of the right word(s). With the "Expanded List" highlighted terms, or even US Code website using CTRL-F, it doesn't take long to plow through a list of 15-25 items.

Jim Miller

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