After repeated inquiries from Tax Analysts, which last received exemption letters January 9, an IRS spokesperson confirmed March 11 that a decision was made recently to stop providing the exemption letters to news outlets. The spokesperson said the decision was connected to recent changes in the structure of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel as well as the relocation of the IRS's tax-exempt organizations headquarters from Washington to Cincinnati.
The spokesperson emphasized that there has been no pause in the processing of exemption applications and that exemption letters are still being provided to applicants.
The IRS began making favorable exemption letters available in 1992. They have been released under the procedures announced in Notice 92-28, 1992-1 C.B. 515. The notice provides for public inspection of a "loose-leaf file" of favorable exemption letters.
When asked what options are available for individuals who still would like to have access to exemption letters, the IRS spokesperson said submission of Form 4506-A, "Request for Public Inspection or Copy of Exempt or Political Organization IRS Form," is the standard process for all public requests for determination and closing letters.
The decision to stop providing the exemption letters comes at a time when many lawmakers are questioning IRS transparency because of the agency's selection of conservative groups' exemption applications for heightened scrutiny, long delays in processing the applications and requests for unnecessary information, and the controversy surrounding the missing e-mails of former IRS official Lois Lerner. Since the targeting controversy erupted nearly two years ago, lawmakers have also criticized the agency for not initially telling Congress about the targeting of conservative groups or about its loss of the Lerner e-mails.
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