Public inspection and distribution of applications for tax exemption and annual information returns of tax-exempt organizations.
Under Regulations sections 301.6104(d)-1 through 3, a tax-exempt organization must make its application for recognition of exemption and its annual information returns available for public inspection without charge at its principal, regional and district offices during regular business hours;
Application for tax exemption includes:
Any prescribed application form (such as Form 1023 or 1024),
All documents and statements the IRS requires an applicant to file with the form,
Any statement or other supporting document submitted in support of the application, and
Any letter or other document issued by the IRS concerning the application.
Application for tax exemption does not include:
In the case of a tax-exempt organization other than a private foundation, the name and address of any contributor to the organization; or
Any material that is not available for public inspection under section 6104.
Annual information return includes:
An exact copy of the Form 990 or 990-EZ filed by a tax-exempt organization as required by section 6033,
Any amended return the organization files with the IRS after the date the original return is filed (both the original and amended return are subject to the public inspection requirements), and
An exact copy of Form 990-T if one is filed by a 501(c)(3) organization.
The copy must include all information furnished to the IRS on Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-T as well as all schedules, attachments and supporting documents, except for the name and address of any contributor to the organization.
Special Rules Relating to Public Inspection
Permissible conditions on public inspection. A tax-exempt organization:
Can have an employee present in the room during an inspection,
Must allow the individual conducting the inspection to take notes freely during the inspection, and
Must allow the individual to photocopy the document at no charge, if the individual provides photocopying equipment at the place of inspection.
Organizations that do not maintain permanent offices. A tax-exempt organization with no permanent office:
Must make its application for tax exemption and its annual information returns available for inspection at a reasonable location of its choice,
Must permit public inspection within a reasonable amount of time after receiving a request for inspection (normally not more than 2 weeks) and at a reasonable time of day,
Can mail, within 2 weeks of receiving the request, a copy of its application for tax exemption and annual information returns to the requester instead of allowing an inspection, and
Can charge the requester for copying and actual postage costs only if the requester consents to the charge.
Making Applications and Returns Widely Available
A tax-exempt organization is not required to comply with a request for a copy of its application for tax exemption or an annual information return if the organization has made the requested document widely available.
An organization that makes its application for tax exemption and/or annual information return widely available must nevertheless make the document available for public inspection as required under Regulations section 301.6104(d)-1(a).
A tax-exempt organization makes its application for tax exemption and/or an annual information return widely available if the organization complies with the Internet posting requirements and the notice requirements given below.
Internet posting. A tax-exempt organization can make its application for tax exemption and/or an annual information return widely available by posting the document on a World Wide Web page that the tax-exempt organization establishes and maintains or by having the document posted, as part of a database of similar documents of other tax-exempt organizations, on a World Wide Web page established and maintained by another entity. The document will be considered widely available only if:
The World Wide Web page through which it is available clearly informs readers that the document is available and provides instructions for downloading it;
The document is posted in a format that, when accessed, downloaded, viewed and printed in hard copy, exactly reproduces the image of the application for tax exemption or annual information return as it was originally filed with the IRS, except for any information permitted by statute to be withheld from public disclosure; and
Any individual with access to the Internet can access, download, view and print the document without special computer hardware or software required for that format (other than software that is readily available to members of the public without payment of any fee) and without payment of a fee to the tax-exempt organization or to another entity maintaining the World Wide Web page.
Reliability and accuracy. In order for the document to be widely available through an Internet posting, the entity maintaining the World Wide Web page must have procedures for ensuring the reliability and accuracy of the document that it posts on the page and must take reasonable precautions to prevent alteration, destruction or accidental loss of the document when posted on its page. In the event that a posted document is altered, destroyed or lost, the entity must correct or replace the document.
Notice requirement. If a tax-exempt organization has made its application for tax exemption and/or an annual information return widely available, it must notify any individual requesting a copy where the documents are available (including the address on the World Wide Web, if applicable). If the request is made in person, the organization must provide such notice to the individual immediately. If the request is made in writing, the notice must be provided within 7 days of receiving the request.
Tax-Exempt Organization Subject to Harassment Campaign
If the Exempt Organizations (EO) Technical office determines that the organization is being harassed, a tax-exempt organization is not required to comply with any request for copies that it reasonably believes is part of a harassment campaign.
Whether a group of requests constitutes a harassment campaign depends on the relevant facts and circumstances such as:
A sudden increase in requests;
An extraordinary number of requests by form letters or similarly worded correspondence;
Evidence showing bad faith or deterrence of the organization's exempt purpose;
Prior provision of the requested documents to the purported harassing group; and
A demonstration that the organization routinely provides copies of its documents upon request.
A tax-exempt organization can disregard any request for copies of all or part of any document beyond the first two received within any 30-day period or the first four received within any 1-year period from the same individual or the same address, regardless of whether the EO Technical office has determined that the organization is subject to a harassment campaign.
A tax-exempt organization can apply for a determination that it is the subject of a harassment campaign and that compliance with requests that are part of the campaign would not be in the public interest by submitting a signed application to the EO Technical office. See Rev. Proc. 2013-4, 2013-1 I.R.B. 126, and Rev. Proc. 2013-8, 2013-1 I.R.B. 237.
In addition, the organization can suspend compliance with any request it reasonably believes to be part of the harassment campaign until it receives a response to its application for a harassment campaign determination. However, if the EO Technical office determines that the organization did not have a reasonable basis for requesting a determination that it was subject to a harassment campaign or reasonable belief that a request was part of the campaign, the officer, director, trustee, employee, or other responsible individual of the organization remains liable for any penalties for not providing the copies in a timely fashion. See Regulations section 301.6104(d)-3.