The Internal Revenue Service has released nearly 3,000 pages of training materials used by the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations unit in making determinations of whether to grant tax-exempt status to organizations, in response to a lawsuit from the nonprofit publisher Tax Analysts.
The documents received, most of which date from mid-2012, represent some, but not all, of what Tax Analysts said Tuesday it hopes to receive under its Freedom of Information Act request. The materials specify cases in which applications may require closer scrutiny, including political advocacy cases.
The IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit came under fire earlier this year in Congress following revelations by the head of the unit, Lois Lerner, that they had given extra scrutiny to applications from Tea Party-affiliated groups. Ultimately, Lerner was forced out, and the scandal and other controversies at the agency led to the departures of a number of other IRS officials, including acting commissioner Steven T. Miller.
“It is unfortunate that Tax Analysts needed to go to court to get this process started,” said Christopher Bergin, president and publisher of Tax Analysts, in a statement. “An important mission of Tax Analysts is to promote transparency in tax administration. We will vigorously continue to pursue that mission.”
Tax Analysts requested the documents in May following the controversy surrounding the determinations office’s handling of exemption applications from conservative organizations. The company brought suit against the IRS in August, seeking expedited processing of the request. The IRS released roughly 1,000 pages in September, followed by another 1,800 pages in November.
“Our motion for a preliminary injunction is on hold pending the IRS's continued processing of documents,” said Cornish F. Hitchcock, Tax Analysts' attorney in the matter. “Although the IRS has indicated that they have produced the bulk of the training documents we're seeking, we’ve pointed out some items that seem to be missing. The Service has until November 27 to produce all remaining documents or explain to the court why it can't do so.”
As part of its public education mission, Tax Analysts noted that it seeks transparency in tax laws and more dialogue between tax authorities and taxpayers. Through these and other efforts, Tax Analysts seeks to ensure that tax laws are applied fairly and equally to taxpayers across the country.
More information about the lawsuit and the released documents is available here.