Law Requirements

What does the new law require the tax-exempt organization to do?

In response to a written or in-person request by an individual at the principal office of the organization, and if such organization regularly maintains one or more regional or district offices having three or more employees, at each such regional or district office, a copy of the covered tax documents shall be provided to the requester. If the request for copies is made in person, the request will generally be honored on the day of the request; if the request is written, then the organization usually has thirty days to respond. (A request that is faxed, e-mailed or sent by private courier is considered a written request.)

The organization may want to charge reasonable copying costs and the actual cost of postage before providing the copies. The law permits this. But, the organization must provide timely notice of the approximate cost and acceptable form of payment, which must include cash and money order (in the case of an in-person request) and certified check, money order, and personal check or credit card, in the case of a written request.

What does the IRS consider to be a reasonable charge for copying costs?

A tax-exempt organization may charge a reasonable fee for providing copies, which is defined as the amount charged by the IRS for providing copies. Currently, that amount is $1.00 for the first page and .15 for each subsequent page. An organization may require payment before it provides copies, but must advise requesters of the total cost of the copies requested if adequate payment is not included with the request.

Are tax-exempt organizations required to disclose the names or addresses of its contributors?

No. The new regulations, like the old regulations, specifically exclude the name and address of any contributor to the organization from the definition of discloseable documents.

Is there a convenient exception to the requirement to provide copies?

A tax-exempt organization does not have to comply with individual requests for copies if it makes the documents widely available as described in the regulations. This can be done by posting the documents on a readily accessible World Wide Web site, either its own or on a database of exempt organization documents maintained by another organization, provided the documents are posted in a format that meets the criteria set forth in the regulations. In general, the format must exactly reproduce the image of the original document and allow an Internet user to access, download, view and print the posted document without the payment of a fee. One format that currently meets the criteria is Portable Document Format (.pdf). An organization that makes its documents widely available in this manner, must advise requesters how the forms may be accessed.

If an organization makes it documents "widely available" must it make the documents available for public inspection?

Yes. Making documents widely available satisfies the requirement to provide copies of the documents. This requirement is separate from the requirement to make the documents available for public inspection. There is no exception (similar to the widely available exception) from the requirement to make documents available for public inspection.

About Us