Site that will help me, um, cite.... (ugh, I've got nothin')
March 13, 2008 7:02 AM   Subscribe

[Attention-Citation-Officers-Filter]: I am clueless as to the proper way of citing financial documents in the course of my writing. The Chicago Manual of Style has left me high and dry. Hope me!

I'm having difficulty finding out how to accurately cite financial documents. Specifically, I need to cite information from a non-profit organization's 990 form. I am citing several figures from this tax document. I've searched various terms, such as citation+financial+report+document+writing etc., with every coupling and configuration in between. No. Dice.

So, my multifaceted question:

Is there a cut-and-dried template of citing data from a tax document in expository writing? For both note and bibliographical references? In a way that is consistent with (or at least acceptable by) the Chicago Manual of Style? Are there any websites dedicated to illustrating this type of citation? If so, which ones?


All suggestions welcome. Seriously. This is driving me nuts.
posted by numinous to Education (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Ugh, I'm so frustrated that I had to use my question on this. :(
posted by numinous at 7:03 AM on March 13, 2008

Well, there is this site -- kind of scroll down under Corporate authors which gives both hardcopy and electronic. I am sure that the librarians on the green will come up with more detailed info.
posted by jadepearl at 7:19 AM on March 13, 2008

Here is something better which is the business citation guide here

Since most institutions file and they can be found in databases this maybe better for you. You can also try to reverse engineer the citation of another, similar document listed in the various finance databases.
posted by jadepearl at 7:37 AM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: jadepearl: Most of those sites seem to illustrate how to cite a business' financial statements (e.g. cash-flow statement, or statement of retained earnings) and analytic reports versus the prepared IRS tax forms that I'm referencing (or at least trying to reference. !$%!$#%!%#)

I was hoping to reverse engineer the citation of a similar document, but I'm seemingly unable to find any other document that cites an IRS filed form. Perhaps this illustrates that it is not common practice, and that I should simply refer to it in running text?

To complicate matters further: I'm using the data in a a content footnote, so it would be really awkward to use it in support of my text without having a source to conclude the footnote itself.
posted by numinous at 7:59 AM on March 13, 2008

Actually financial record citation is used extensively in legal proceedings and documents. Here is a page listing appropriate guides. You might want to query legal citation guides.
posted by jadepearl at 8:07 AM on March 13, 2008

Ha, here is something more explicit This guide is for IRS forms.
posted by jadepearl at 8:09 AM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: TaxCite looks like it might be helpful (???), but I'm reluctant to assume that it will be, given my (limited) exposure to legal documents. Also, there is no way that I'd get it via InterLibrary loan on time. If I had known that figuring out how to cite such a source was going to be such a pain, I wouldn't have built so much of my thesis around comparing company finances.

If I'm not mistaken, most legal citation is done within the body of the text. I am using the Chicago Manual+footnote method to cite my references, which is an entirely different animal and requires an entirely different reference structure.

I'm really not trying to be impossible! It's just that there must be an answer for this. I can't be the first person to cite IRS tax information in an academic essay.
posted by numinous at 8:24 AM on March 13, 2008

numinous, since it seems that you're really looking for an authoritative answer and you are also a student someplace, have you considered asking either your advisor or your librarian? While we're all going to be like "errrr, here is my best guess" it's your librarian's job to authoritatively and definitively answer this for you.
posted by jessamyn at 9:27 AM on March 13, 2008

Yeah, I would ask your advisor or your institution's Thesis Advisor (if they have one), who is the point-person for picky little formatting questions. One of these people should be able to point you toward the relevant rulebook.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:43 AM on March 13, 2008

Also, you might submit a question to the Chicago Manual—you won't get an answer in time for your immediate needs, but they might answer it on their Q&A page and maybe even put something about it in the next edition.
posted by languagehat at 12:05 PM on March 13, 2008

I don't have the Chicago Manual of Style in front of me, but I'm skeptical that it doesn't provide an answer for you. Skim the sixty pages or so in Chicago that cover citing primary source documents. There probably won't be a specific section on "financial documents," since that's too heterogenous a category to be covered by a single citation convention. More germane is the issue of where the 990 form you examined can be examined by someone else -- you'll be citing a URL or a public document collection or something like "report supplied by organization, in possession of author." Chicago is mindbogglingly comprehensive; you just need to poke around in there some more.
posted by gum at 12:05 PM on March 13, 2008

Mod note: "answers" that bitch out other users will be removed - if you can't correct someone without righteous indignation, please remember that metatalk is your friend.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:23 PM on March 13, 2008

I do have the Chicago Manual of Style in front of me, and I assure you the poster is correct: it does not provide an answer.
posted by languagehat at 1:41 PM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: Looks like I missed the party!

: I did indeed consult the Chicago Manual of Style, and it definitely does not supply any answers. It doesn't even suggest how to type any financial document.

jess & LM: The reference librarian had absolutely no idea about how to do this, nor had he ever heard of such a thing. He sent me to the reference tables with a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, which I literally scoured for information - to no avail. I then consulted the Governmental Publications librarians, and nor had they ever heard of such a thing!

What I did learn is this: Tax forms that are filed are not generally considered "public documents," inasmuch as they aren't published for general access; it is a rare occasion (and it appears to be unique to non-profit orgs) that filed tax forms are made accessible.

As a result, I suppose I have one of two options:
  1. Cite the website ( as the authority entity, and use the "990 Form filed for XXXXXX Organization" as the title of the document. Treat this as I would treat any document emerging from an electronic source.
  2. -OR-
  3. Treat the 990 form like an unpublished primary source.
languagehat: I definitely intend to summit this enigma to the CMS. There is literally no precedent that I, nor my team of super-hero librarians, could find. Hrmph!
posted by numinous at 1:51 PM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: whoops, that should be " to cite any financial document."

Look at my inner editor go! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

posted by numinous at 1:52 PM on March 13, 2008

Me, I think I'd go with option 1, but you should really ask your advisor.
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on March 13, 2008

Numinous, if you read the form online at Guidestar, then the only acceptable citation form is to cite the website -- and the current Chicago, 15th ed. has explicit guidelines for that. The whole purpose of citation conventions is to make it explicitly clear how another researcher can look at exactly the same thing you looked at. There may be a fascinating typo or scurrilous omission in the Guidestar document that doesn't exist in the original filed version, right?
posted by gum at 3:32 PM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: Yes, I clearly understand the need to direct the reader to the origin of the reference. And, obviously (as is required by university policy and general ethical academic conduct), I've aways intended to include the URL from when I obtained the 990 form. I just wasn't sure who to credit as the "author," per se: Guidestar? The Organization? The IRS?

And the answer of that questions would appear to determine the format of the citation itself, right?

I've cited so much, so often over the course of my studies that I feel sort of ridiculous (and not a little obtuse) that I've had so much trouble with this one citation.

But your response raises some relevant questions, gum. What actually determines the format of the citation? Is it the location of the work-at-hand (as I presume would be the case)? Or would it be the authoring entity? Would this fall under "electronic document" or "unpublished materials?" Can I just append the URL to the end of the citation, or does the inclusion of the URL automatically dictate the entire citation's format?

Also, does the fact that the 990 form was a downloadable .pdf have any bearing on this?

Oh my god, this citation had become my plate of beans to bear!
posted by numinous at 5:10 PM on March 13, 2008

Best answer: Numinous, I'm sorry to keep answering without actually citing Chicago specifics -- I'm across town from it today. If you read the preamble pages right before the electronic citation and primary source citation pages, you'll find the editors acknowledging that some sources require a bit of improvisation on your part. I think it's perfectly reasonable to consider the organization that produced the form its author. It is absolutely, positively an electronic document because you got it off the Web. You'll cite the URL in any variation of the electronic document citation guidelines, which will take care of telling your readers that it's a PDF document.

It appears on re-reading that you're trying to consult an online version of Chicago. If so, you're only getting an itty bitty little taste of it that's designed to get you to buy the book! Go look at the real thing, and insist on the current 15th edition -- the 14th edition predates the World Wide Web.
posted by gum at 5:55 PM on March 13, 2008

« Older I'll bet you ____ that ____   |   Social Netwoking CMS or not? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.