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previous page Previous Page: Publication 557 - Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization - Report of Cash Received
next page Next Page: Publication 557 - Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization - Required Disclosures
 Use previous pagenext page to find additional occurrences of topic items.Index for this Publication
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP75cea781

Public Inspection 
of Exemption Applications, Annual Returns, and Political Organization Reporting Forms(p15)


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Public Inspection of Exemption Applications, Annual Returns, and Political Organization Reporting Forms

The following rules apply to private foundations as well as other tax-exempt organizations. Private foundations filing annual returns are subject to the public disclosure requirements under section 6104(d).
Included in this section is a discussion on the public inspection requirements for political organizations filing Forms 8871 and 8872.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP23d0deb5

Annual Information Return(p15)


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previous topic occurrence Annual Information Return next topic occurrence

An exempt organization must make available for public inspection, upon request and without charge, a copy of its original and amended annual information returns. Each information return must be made available from the date it is required to be filed (determined with regard to any extensions), or is actually filed, whichever is later. An original return does not have to be made available if more than 3 years have passed from the date the return was required to be filed (including any extensions) or was filed, whichever is later. An amended return does not have to be made available if more than 3 years have passed from the date it was filed.
An annual information return includes an exact copy of the return (Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-BL, 990-PF, 990-T, or 1065), and amended return if any, and all schedules, attachments, and supporting documents filed with the IRS.
An annual information return does not include:
In the case of a tax-exempt organization other than a private foundation, an annual information return does not include the names and addresses of contributors to the organization.
Caution
Form 990-T. All section 501(c)(3) organizations that file Form 990-T must make the return public, regardless of whether the organization is otherwise subject to the disclosure requirements of section 6104. For example, although churches are not required to file Form 1023 or Form 990 with the IRS, they must file the Form 990-T with the IRS to report unrelated business taxable income. Thus, churches must disclose Form 990-T to the public.
State colleges and universities have been recognized by the IRS as exempt under section 501(a) as organizations described in section 501(c)(3) must disclose Form 990-T to the public. However, state colleges and universities that are subject to tax under section 511(a) solely by virtue of section 511(a)(2)(B), and that have not been recognized by the IRS as exempt under section 501(a) as organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are not required to make their Forms 990-T public.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP7794a735

Public Inspection of Exemption Application(p16)


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Public Inspection of Exemption Application

An exempt organization must also make available for public inspection without charge its application for tax-exempt status. An application for tax exemption includes the application form (such as Form 1023 or 1024), all documents and statements the IRS requires the organization to file with the form, any statement or other supporting document submitted by an organization in support of its application, and any letter or other document issued by the IRS concerning the application.
The application for exemption does not include:
If there is no prescribed application form, see section 301.6104(d)-1(b)(3)(ii) of the regulations for a list of the documents that must be made available.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP427e781c

Material required to be withheld from public inspection.(p16)
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Material that is required to be withheld from public inspection includes:
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP6a09cd6a

Time, place, and manner restrictions.(p16)


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The annual returns and exemption application must be made available for inspection, without charge, at the organization's principal, regional, and district offices during regular business hours. The organization may have an employee present during inspection, but must allow the individual to take notes freely and to photocopy at no charge if the individual provides the photocopying equipment. Generally, regional and district offices are those that have paid employees who together are normally paid at least 120 hours a week.
If the organization does not maintain a permanent office, it must make its application for tax exemption and its annual information returns available for inspection at a reasonable location of its choice. It 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. At its option, it may mail, within 2 weeks of receiving the request, a copy of its application for tax exemption and annual information returns to the requester in lieu of allowing an inspection. The organization may charge the requester for copying and actual postage costs only if the requester consents to the charge.
An organization that has a permanent office, but has no office hours or very limited hours during certain times of the year, must make its documents available during those periods when office hours are limited or not available as though it were an organization without a permanent office.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP533ff8ca

Furnishing copies.(p16)


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An exempt organization also must provide a copy of all, or any specific part or schedule, of its three most recent annual information returns and/or exemption application to anyone who requests a copy either in person or in writing at its principal, regional, or district office during regular business hours. If the individual made the request in person, the copy must be provided on the same business day the request is made unless there are unusual circumstances. Unusual circumstances are defined in section 301.6104(d)-1(d)(1)(ii) of the regulations.
The organization must honor a written request for a copy of documents or specific parts or schedules of documents that are required to be disclosed. However, this rule only applies if the request:
The organization must mail the copy within 30 days from the date it receives the request. The organization may request payment in advance and must then provide the copies within 30 days from the date it receives payment.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP5f2f90bb

Fees for copies.(p16)
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The organization may charge a reasonable fee for providing copies. It can charge no more for the copies than the per page rate the IRS charges for providing copies. The IRS may not charge more for copies than the fees listed in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) fee schedule. Although the IRS charges no fee for the first 100 pages, the organization can charge a fee for all copies. For non-commercial requesters, the FOIA schedule currently provides a rate of $.20 per page. The organization can also charge the actual postage costs it pays to provide the copies.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP48822dc5

Regional and district offices.(p16)


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Generally, the same rules regarding public inspection and providing copies of applications and annual information returns that apply to a principal office of an exempt organization also apply to its regional and district offices. However, a regional or district office is not required to make its annual information return available for inspection or to provide copies until 30 days after the date the return is required to be filed (including any extensions) or is actually filed, whichever is later.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP52989385

Local and subordinate organizations.(p16)


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A local or subordinate organization is an exempt organization that did not file its own application for tax exemption because it is covered by a group exemption letter. Generally, a local or subordinate organization of an exempt organization must, upon request, make available for public inspection, or provide copies of:
  1. The application submitted to the IRS by the central or parent organization to obtain the group exemption letter, and
  2. Those documents which were submitted by the central or parent organization to include the local or subordinate organization in the group exemption letter.
However, if the central or parent organization submits to the IRS a list or directory of local or subordinate organizations covered by the group exemption letter, the local or subordinate organization is required to provide only the application for the group exemption ruling and the pages of the list or directory that specifically refer to it.
The local or subordinate organization must permit public inspection or comply with a request for copies made in person, within a reasonable amount of time (normally not more than 2 weeks) after receiving a request made in person for public inspection or copies and at a reasonable time of day. In lieu of allowing an inspection, the local or subordinate organization may mail a copy of the applicable documents to the person requesting inspection within the same time period. In that case, the organization may charge the requester for copying and actual postage costs only if the requester consents to the charge. If the local or subordinate organization receives a written request for a copy of its application for exemption, it must fulfill the request in the time and manner specified earlier.
The requester has the option of requesting from the central or parent organization, at its principal office, inspection or copies of the application for group exemption and the material submitted by the central or parent organization to include a local or subordinate organization in the group ruling. If the central or parent organization submits to the IRS a list or directory of local or subordinate organizations covered by the group exemption letter, it must make the list or directory available for public inspection, but it is required to provide copies only of those pages of the list or directory that refer to particular local or subordinate organizations specified by the requester. The central or parent organization must fulfill such requests in the time and manner specified earlier.
A local or subordinate organization that does not file its own annual information return (because it is affiliated with a central or parent organization that files a group return) must, upon request, make available for public inspection, or provide copies of, the group returns filed by the central or parent organization. However, if the group return includes separate schedules for each local or subordinate organization included in the group return, the local or subordinate organization receiving the request may omit any schedules relating only to other organizations included in the group return. The local or subordinate organization must permit public inspection, or comply with a request for copies made in person, within a reasonable amount of time (normally not more than 2 weeks) after receiving a request made in person for public inspection or copies and at a reasonable time of day.
In lieu of allowing an inspection, the local or subordinate organization may mail a copy of the applicable documents to the person requesting inspection within the same time period. In this case, the organization can charge the requester for copying and actual postage costs only if the requester consents to the charge. If the local or subordinate organization receives a written request for a copy of its annual information return, it must fulfill the request by providing a copy of the group return in the time and manner specified earlier. The requester has the option of requesting from the central or parent organization, at its principal office, inspection or copies of group returns filed by the central or parent organization. The central or parent organization must fulfill such requests in the time and manner specified earlier.
If an organization fails to comply, it may be liable for a penalty. See Penalties, later.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP4bbb97fd

Making applications and annual information returns widely available.(p17)


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An exempt organization does not have to comply with requests for copies of its annual information returns or exemption application if it makes them widely available. However, making these documents widely available does not relieve the organization from making its documents available for public inspection.
The organization can make its application and annual information returns widely available by posting the application and annual information returns on a World Wide Web page. For the rules to follow so that the Internet posting will be considered widely available, see section 301.6104(d)-2(b) of the regulations.
If the organization has made its application for tax exemption and/or annual information returns widely available, it must inform 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 notice must be provided immediately. If the request is made in writing, the notice must be provided within 7 days.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP7001076f

Harassment campaign.(p17)


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If the tax-exempt organization is the subject of a harassment campaign, the organization may not have to fulfill requests for information. For more information, see section 301.6104(d)-3 of the regulations.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP4ff8a8ef

Political Organization Reporting Forms(p17)


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Political Organization Reporting Forms

Forms 8871 and 8872 (discussed earlier under Reporting Requirements for a Political Organization) are open to public inspection.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP14a234f6

Form 8871.(p17)
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Form 8871 (including any supporting papers) and any letter or other document the IRS issues with regard to Form 8871 is open to public inspection at the IRS in Washington, DC.
Copies of Form 8871 that have been filed will be made available on the IRS Internet website www.irs.gov/polorgs 48 hours after the notice has been filed and are considered widely available as long as the organization provides the IRS website address to the person making the request. In addition, the organization must make a copy of these materials available for public inspection during regular business hours at the organization's principal office and at each of its regional or district offices having at least three paid employees.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP3b263d7f

Form 8872.(p17)
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Form 8872 (including Schedules A and B) is open to public inspection. Copies of Form 8872 that are required to be filed electronically will be made available on the Internet website www.irs.gov/polorgs within 48 hours after it has been filed.
In addition, the organization is required to make a copy of this form available for public inspection during regular business hours at the organization's principal office and at each of its regional or district offices having at least three paid employees.
taxmap/pubs/p557-013.htm#TXMP5e7e7087

Penalties(p17)


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previous topic occurrence Penalty next topic occurrence

The penalty for failure to allow public inspection of annual returns is $20 for each day the failure continues. The maximum penalty on all persons for failures involving any one return is $10,000.
The penalty for failure to allow public inspection of exemption applications is $20 for each day the failure continues.
The penalty for willful failure to allow public inspection of a return or exemption application is $5,000 for each return or application. The penalty also applies to a willful failure to provide copies.
The penalty for failure to allow public inspection of a political organization's section 527 notice (Form 8871) is $20 for each day the failure continues.
The penalty for failure to allow public inspection of a section 527 organization's contributions and expenditures report (Form 8872) is $20 for each day the failure continues. The maximum penalty on all persons for failures involving any one report is $10,000.
previous pagePrevious Page: Publication 557 - Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization - Report of Cash Received
next pageNext Page: Publication 557 - Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization - Required Disclosures
 Use previous pagenext page to find additional occurrences of topic items.Index for this Publication