Tax research publisher Tax Analysts has filed suit against the Internal Revenue Service, asking a federal court to force the agency to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request and provide training materials used for its guidance in Exempt Organizations determinations.

The legal action comes after Tax Analysts sought and was granted expedited processing of its FOIA request, according to the nonprofit organization, which publishes Tax Notes, but the IRS responded with repeated delays.

“Clearly, we do not view our action here lightly. But this is important information, and the press and the public have the right to this information and to get it in a timely fashion,” said Christopher E. Bergin, president and publisher of Tax Analysts, in a statement. “We have tried patiently to work with the IRS and have listened carefully to the agency's concerns, but the IRS has left us no other path. Apparently, and unfortunately, the greater the public interest, the more difficult it is to get expedited treatment to a request for information. That is not how this is supposed to work.”

Tax Analysts won a previous landmark case in 2003 against the IRS over access to tax-exempt determination decisions. A federal appeals court ruled that the IRS must provide the reason why it denies tax-exempt status to organizations or revokes it.

The IRS has come under fire this year for using terms such as “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” “Progressive” and “Occupy” to screen applications for tax-exempt status, leading to a shake-up in both the Exempt Organizations unit and the upper echelons of the agency. Congress has been investigating the IRS in recent months for this and other problems. On Tuesday, House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany wrote a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office asking it to report on how the IRS examines tax-exempt organizations and the criteria it uses to select them for IRS audits (see GAO to Probe IRS Audits of Tax-Exempt Organizations).

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