11.3.7  Freedom of Information Reading Room Operations

11.3.7.1  (08-08-2008)
Background

  1. The Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA) 5 USC 552, as amended provides for public access to records and information maintained by Federal agencies.

  2. Subsection (a)(1) of the FOIA requires agencies to publish certain information relating to the transaction of agency business in the Federal Register, including:

    1. Descriptions of agency organizations, functions, and procedures

    2. Substantive agency rules and

    3. Statements of general agency policy

  3. Subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA requires agencies to make available for public inspection and copying:

    1. Final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases

    2. Those statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the agency and are not published in the Federal Register (e.g., revenue rulings, Coordinated Issue Papers, Actions on Decisions, field directives)

    3. Administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public (e.g., IRM)

  4. In 1996, subsection (a)(2) was amended to require agencies to include in their reading room any records processed and disclosed in response to a FOIA request that "the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records" 5 USC 552(a)(2)(D). The Director, Office of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure, makes this determination.

    Note:

    Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, while records placed in reading rooms under subsection (a)(2) cannot ordinarily be the subject of regular FOIA requests under subsection (a)(3), this rule does not apply to records that are in the Reading Room because they have been requested frequently.

  5. Each agency is required to maintain a current index of the material that has been made available for public inspection under subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA, and make the index available for public inspection and copying.

  6. Internal Revenue regulations appearing at 26 CFR 601.702(b)(3) require that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provide a Freedom of Information Reading Room where matters required to be made available for public inspection and the current indexes to such matters, will be made available to the public for inspection and copying. The Freedom of Information Reading Room where such records are made available for public inspection and copying is located in the IRS Headquarters Office at:

    Internal Revenue Service
    Freedom of Information Reading Room
    Room 1621
    1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20224

  7. In 1996, the FOIA was also amended to require agencies to use electronic information technology to enhance the availability of the records required to be made available for public inspection and copying that were issued after November 1, 1996. The IRS maintains an " electronic reading room" at http://www.irs.gov/foia to fulfill this requirement. The "electronic reading room" shall also provide electronically accessible indexes for any subsection (a)(2) records issued after November 1, 1996.

  8. The Freedom of Information Reading Room also serves as the place of inspection for:

    1. Written determinations (e.g., private letter rulings, technical advice memoranda, determination letters, and Chief Counsel advice) subject to public inspection under IRC §6110

    2. Exempt and political organization information subject to public inspection under IRC §6104

    3. Employee plan information subject to public inspection under IRC §6104 and

    4. Comments received in response to Notices of Proposed Rulemaking and other solicitations for public comments

    5. Limited information made available under subsection (a) (1) of the FOIA, but not mandated for inclusion in reading rooms

11.3.7.2  (08-08-2008)
Freedom of Information Reading Room

  1. A photocopier is available in the Freedom of Information Reading Room to permit members of the public to copy reading room materials.

  2. A computer work station, with attached printer, is also available in the Freedom of Information Reading Room to permit members of the public to search for, inspect, and copy "electronic reading room" materials.

  3. The room is serviced by a full-time staff that will assist members of the public with Freedom of Information Reading Room issues. In particular, the staff will assist users to locate reference materials and respond to questions about how to make requests under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts and various other IRC provisions; e.g., IRC §6103, IRC §6104, and IRC §6110.

    Note:

    Reading Room staff members are not equipped or trained to answer technical tax law questions.

11.3.7.3  (08-08-2008)
Written Determinations

  1. IRC §6110 provides for public inspection of written determinations, including private letter rulings, technical advice memoranda, determination letters, and Chief Counsel advice. See IRM 11.3.8, Disclosure of Written Determinations, for procedures for the indexing, filing, and public inspection of written determinations in the Freedom of Information Reading Room.

  2. These written determinations are indexed by release number and Uniform Issue List (UIL) Code. The Uniform Issue List is an index of issues based on Internal Revenue Code sections. Written determinations issued after October 1998 (for Chief Counsel advice) and January 1999 (for letter rulings and technical advice) are posted on the IRS website at:
    http://www.irs.gov/foia/lists/0,,id=97705,00.html (To search by Release Number)
    http://www.irs.gov/foia/lists/0,,id=97715,00.html (To search by UIL Code Section)

  3. Each written determination is coded with a nine digit identification number (seven digits for written determinations issued before 1999). Requesters seeking copies of the written determinations are encouraged to make their requests by referencing the identification number.

11.3.7.4  (08-08-2008)
Fees

  1. Fees may be charged for photocopying or printing reading room material, as established in the Internal Revenue regulations appearing at 26 CFR 601.702(f)(5). Except for commercial use requesters, the first 100 pages are provided free of charge. The fee for photocopying or printing reading room material is $.20 per page. See IRM 11.3.5 , Fees.

11.3.7.5  (08-08-2008)
Public Inspection of Exempt Organization Material

  1. IRC §6104 provides the statutory authority for making approved Applications for Recognition of Exemption and supporting documents, certain letters issued by the IRS, information returns, notices, and reports filed by certain tax exempt organizations available for public inspection.

  2. Internal Revenue regulations, at 26 CFR 301.6104(a)-1 and 601.702(d)(3) and (d)(4) also provide guidance for public inspection and copying of exempt organization material. See IRM 11.3.9 , Exempt Organizations.

11.3.7.5.1  (08-08-2008)
Form 990 - Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax

  1. Requests for public inspection of Form 990 at the IRS National Headquarters (but not requests for copies) are processed by the Freedom of Information Reading Room. Requests for public inspection at other IRS offices are handled by field Disclosure staff. The Reading Room processes Congressional requests for copies.

  2. Initial requests for copies of Forms 990 are handled by TE/GE Customer Service. Customer Service personnel will assist requesters by providing a copy of Form 4506-A, Request for Public Inspection or Copy of Exempt Organization Tax Form. Completed Forms 4506-A, should be sent to the address listed in the instructions on the form.

11.3.7.5.2  (08-08-2008)
Forms 1023 and 1024 - Application for Recognition of Exemption

  1. If the IRS determines that an organization described in IRC §501(c) or (d) is exempt from taxation for any taxable year, the application for exemption upon which the determination is based and any supporting documents are subject to public inspection under IRC §6104 and its implementing regulation, 301.6104(a)-1. See IRM 11.3.9.

  2. Requests for public inspection of these applications at the IRS National Headquarters (but not requests for copies) are processed by the Freedom of Information Reading Room. Requests for public inspection at other IRS offices are handled by field Disclosure staff. The Reading Room processes Congressional requests for copies.

  3. When the tax exempt status of an organization has been revoked or terminated, the application for exemption and related documents upon which the original ruling was granted, remain open for public inspection purposes with regard to any period for which exemption is still recognized.

11.3.7.5.3  (08-08-2008)
Notices and Reports - Forms 8871 and 8872

  1. Political organizations may be required to file Form 8871, Political Organization Notice of Section 527 Status and Form 8872, Political Organization Report of Contributions and Expenditures. These forms are subject to public inspection.

  2. Requests for public inspection of these forms at the IRS National Headquarters (but not requests for copies) are processed by the Freedom of Information Reading Room. Requests for public inspection at other IRS offices are handled by field Disclosure staff. The Reading Room processes Congressional requests for copies.

  3. Technical questions relating to Forms 8871 and 8872 should be referred to the TEGE CSC toll-free number, 877-829-5500. Additional information on these forms and requirements may be obtained in subsections 21.7.7.4.7, Form 8871, Political Organization Notice of Section 527 Status, and IRM 21.7.7.7.4.8, Form 8872, Political Organization Report of Contributions and Expenditures.

11.3.7.5.4  (08-08-2008)
Requesting Exempt Organization Documents

  1. Requests for copies or inspection of the following forms must be made in writing. Form 4506-A is designed for such requests and should be used. The costs associated with processing these requests and the location to which the request should be mailed is provided on Form 4506-A.

    • Approved Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code

    • Approved Form 1024, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(a) or for Determination Under Section 120, with supporting documents

    • Form 990 series, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax

    • Form 1041-A, U.S. Information Return Trust Accumulation of Charitable Amounts

    • Form 8871, Political Organization Notice of Section 527 Status

    • Form 8872, Political Organization Report of Contributions and Expenditures

    Note:

    These forms are stored in and must be ordered from TE/GE offices using Form 4506-A.Requests for inspection submitted to the Reading Room or to a local Disclosure Office are forwarded to the appropriate TE/GE office and will not result in a speedier response.

  2. Requestors may be advised that Forms 8871 and 8872 are generally available on the internet for viewing and printing at: http://www.irs.gov/charities/political/article/0,,id=109644,00.html

  3. Requestors may be advised that Form 990 for entities organized under IRC §501(c)(3) may be available at: http://www.guidestar.org

  4. See IRM 11.3.9 for further information concerning exempt organization documents.

11.3.7.6  (08-08-2008)
Public Inspection of Employee Plan Material

  1. IRC §6104, as amended, provides the statutory authority for making certain Employee Plan material available to the public. These materials include applications and supporting documents, and any IRS letter issued with regard to the qualification of a pension, profit sharing, or stock bonus plan, individual retirement account, or individual retirement annuity, or with respect to the exemption from tax of such plan or account.

  2. Internal Revenue regulations at 26 CFR 301.6104(a)-2 and (a)-3 and 26 CFR 601.702(d)(5) also provide guidance for public inspection of pension plan material.

11.3.7.7  (08-08-2008)
Obtaining Form 5500 Series Returns

  1. Form 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan, and Form 5500-C, Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan (with fewer than 100 participants), for 1975 and 1976 were initially filed with the IRS and/or the Department of Labor (DOL). These forms were developed to satisfy the reporting requirements of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974.

  2. Form 5500-K, Annual Return/Report of Employee Pension Benefit Plan for Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships, with no common law employees were filed only with the IRS for years 1975 and 1976; all other Keogh Plan filers were required to file with both the IRS and DOL.

  3. Inquiries and requests for copies of Form 5500 (other than 1975-1976 Form 5500-K) should be referred to:

          U.S. Department of Labor
          Public Disclosure- Room N5638
          200 Constitution Avenue, NW
          Washington, D.C. 20210

  4. Inquiries and requests for copies of 1975 and 1976 Form 5500–K, and all Form 5500-EZ, Annual Return of One-Participant Pension Retirement Plan, should be referred to:

          Internal Revenue Service Center
          P.O. Box 9941
          Stop 6716
          Ogden, UT 84409

  5. Requests for copies of, or inspection of, all other employee plan documents, or inquiries concerning other employee plan determinations, should be directed to:

          TEGE
          Employee Plans Customer Service
          P.O. Box 2508
          Room 2023
          Cincinnati, OH 45201

11.3.7.8  (05-20-2005)
Requests for Inspection or for Copies of Comments Received in Response to Notices of Proposed Rulemaking and Other Solicitations for Public Comments

  1. Upon written request, comments solicited from the public by the IRS may be inspected in the:

          FOIA Reading Room
          1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
          Room 1621
          Washington, DC 20224

  2. Requests must be signed by the person who will be inspecting the documents and should be addressed to:

          Commissioner of Internal Revenue
          PO Box 7604
          Ben Franklin Station
          Washington, DC 20044

  3. The requester will be contacted by FOIA Reading Room personnel when the documents are available for inspection. The documents will be available for inspection during normal business hours (9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays).

  4. Copies of comments may be made in the Reading Room during inspection, or by written request addressed to:

          Commissioner of Internal Revenue
          PO Box 7604
          Ben Franklin Station
          Washington, DC 20044

  5. Fees for duplication may be charged at $.20 per page, with the first 100 pages free to all but commercial-use requesters.


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