Shorter Not Always Sweeter: IRS Facing Some Backlash over Form 1023-EZ

A New York Times article last week focused on criticism the IRS is facing over the streamlined Form 1023-EZ, which allows certain smaller organizations to obtain coveted 501(c)(3) status without completing the full Form 1023.

We’ve blogged about the 1023-EZ before, and noted concern that the simplified form will make it harder for the IRS to identify abusive or fraudulent organizations. The Times article features comments from some prominent critics, who have bashed the form as a near-abdication of the IRS’ duty to oversee exempt organizations:

“In many communities, it takes more to get a library card than it takes to get this new exempt status,” said Tim Delaney, president and chief executive of the National Council of Nonprofits, a network of charitable groups.

Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, had urged the agency to adopt an EZ version, but the new form, she wrote in a memorandum to the agency last year, “goes too far in the opposite direction, effectively making a mockery of the I.R.S.’s significant oversight function.”

The IRS has defended the form, however, and insists it undertook a risk assessment before implementing it. The IRS says that its records showed that about two-thirds of new applicants were small groups that hadn’t started operating, and so a full Form 1023 with a description of activities and finances was premature.

About 28,000 organizations have used the form since its introduction last summer, and about 1,000 were selected for more in-depth questions. Tamera Ripperda, the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, says the agency has found no indications that the form has been intentionally misused. On a purely positive note, the longstanding IRS backlog of applications has been cleared out, according to Ripperda.

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