Thursday, October 6, 2022
TIGTA: More Information Is Needed to Make Informed Decisions on Streamlined Applications for Tax Exemption
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) this week issued a report titled More Information Is Needed to Make Informed Decisions on Streamlined Applications for Tax Exemption. Here are the highlights (emphasis added):
What TIGTA Found
On July 1, 2014, the IRS released Form 1023-EZ, Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, a simplified electronic application for smaller organizations to request and obtain exemption from Federal income tax as an organization described in I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Form 1023-EZ requires applicants to attest, rather than demonstrate, that they meet the requirements for I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) status. For example, Form 1023-EZ applicants are not required to submit their organizing documents to the IRS; they instead attest that they meet organizational requirements.
Based on our assessment of internal and external stakeholder opinions, States’ reporting requirements, comparison with the information required on the long application form, our testing of the application process, and limited examination compliance efforts, we determined that the information provided on the Form 1023-EZ is insufficient to make an informed determination about tax-exempt status and does not educate applicants about eligibility requirements for tax exemption. TIGTA obtained I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) status for four of five nonexistent organizations. The IRS correctly identified one of our fictitious applications as potentially ineligible and sent a request for additional documentation. Our undercover testing illustrates vulnerabilities in the IRS’s tax-exempt status determination process.
The IRS relies on a Form 1023-EZ examination strategy to detect noncompliance after organizations are approved; however, less than 1 percent of tax-exempt organizations are examined each year. In addition, online guidance for the Form 1023-EZ is inaccurate. The online web page used to apply for tax-exempt status includes educational links to assist Form 1023-EZ applicants. However, one of the educational links takes the applicant to a web page containing inaccurate information for applicants using the Form 1023-EZ.
What TIGTA Recommended
TIGTA recommended that the IRS: 1) revise the activities description narrative on Form 1023-EZ, 2) assess the feasibility of requiring applicants to submit their organizing documents as an attachment to Form 1023-EZ, 3) notify applicants when additional time is needed to process their Form 1023-EZ applications, and 4) update online guidance with accurate information on the application process for Form 1023-EZ filers.
IRS management agreed with the second and fourth recommendations. In addition, the IRS will consider notifying applicants when their submissions need additional time to process. However, the IRS believes that requiring detailed activity descriptions is unnecessary to make determination decisions.