(a) In general. If the district director for the key district in which the organization's principal office is located (or such other person as the Commissioner may designate) determines that the organization is the subject of a harassment campaign and compliance with the requests that are part of the harassment campaign would not be in the public interest, a tax-exempt organization is not required to fulfill a request for a copy (as otherwise required by § 301.6104(d)-1(a)) that it reasonably believes is part of the campaign.
(b) Harassment. A group of requests for an organization's application for tax exemption or annual information returns is indicative of a harassment campaign if the requests are part of a single coordinated effort to disrupt the operations of a tax-exempt organization, rather than to collect information about the organization. Whether a group of requests constitutes such a harassment campaign depends on the relevant facts and circumstances. Facts and circumstances that indicate the organization is the subject of a harassment campaign include: a sudden increase in the number of requests; an extraordinary number of requests made through form letters or similarly worded correspondence; evidence of a purpose to deter significantly the organization's employees or volunteers from pursuing the organization's exempt purpose; requests that contain language hostile to the organization; direct evidence of bad faith by organizers of the purported harassment campaign; evidence that the organization has already provided the requested documents to a member of the purported harassing group; and a demonstration by the tax-exempt organization that it routinely provides copies of its documents upon request.
(c) Special rule for multiple requests from a single individual or address. A tax-exempt organization may disregard any request for copies of all or part of any document beyond the first two received within any 30-day period or the first four received within any one-year period from the same individual or the same address, regardless of whether the district director for the applicable key district (or such other person as the Commissioner may designate) has determined that the organization is subject to a harassment campaign.
(d) Harassment determination procedure. A tax-exempt organization may apply for a determination that it is the subject of a harassment campaign and that compliance with requests that are part of the campaign would not be in the public interest by submitting a signed application to the district director for the key district where the organization's principal office is located (or such other person as the Commissioner may designate). The application shall consist of a written statement giving the organization's name, address, employer identification number, and the name, address and telephone number of the person to contact regarding the application. The application must describe in detail the facts and circumstances that the organization believes support a determination that the organization is subject to a harassment campaign. The organization may suspend compliance with respect to any request for a copy of its documents based on its reasonable belief that such request is part of a harassment campaign, provided that the organization files an application for a determination within 10 business days from the day the organization first suspends compliance with respect to a request that is part of the alleged campaign. In addition, the organization may suspend compliance with any request it reasonably believes to be part of the harassment campaign until it receives a response to its application for a harassment campaign determination.
(e) Effect of a harassment determination. If the appropriate district director (or such other person as the Commissioner may designate) determines that a tax-exempt organization is the subject of a harassment campaign and it is not in the public interest to comply with requests that are part of the campaign, such organization is not required to comply with any request for copies that it reasonably believes is part of the campaign. This determination may be subject to other terms and conditions set forth by the district director (or such other person as the Commissioner may designate). A person (as defined in section 6652(c)(4)(C)) shall not be liable for any penalty under sections 6652(c)(1)(C), 6652(c)(1)(D) or 6685 for failing to timely provide a copy of documents in response to a request covered in a request for a harassment determination if the organization fulfills the request within 30 days of receiving a determination from the district director (or such other person as the Commissioner may designate) that the organization is not subject to a harassment campaign. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, if the district director (or such other person as the Commissioner may designate) further determines that the organization did not have a reasonable basis for requesting a determination that it was subject to a harassment campaign or reasonable belief that a request was part of the campaign, the person (as defined in section 6652(c)(4)(C)) remains liable for any penalties that result from not providing the copies in a timely fashion.
(f) Examples. The provisions of this section are illustrated by the following examples:
V, a tax-exempt organization, receives an average of 25 requests per month for copies of its three most recent information returns. In the last week of May, V is mentioned in a national news magazine story that discusses information contained in V's 1996 information return. From June 1 through June 30, 1997 V receives 200 requests for a copy of its documents. Other than the sudden increase in the number of requests for copies, there is no other evidence to suggest that the requests are part of an organized campaign to disrupt V's operations. Although fulfilling the requests will place a burden on V, the facts and circumstances do not show that V is subject to a harassment campaign. Therefore, V must respond timely to each of the 200 requests it receives in June.
Y is a tax-exempt organization that receives an average of 10 requests a month for copies of its annual information returns. From March 1, 1997 to March 31, 1997, Y receives 25 requests for copies of its documents. Fifteen of the requests come from individuals Y knows to be active members of the board of organization X. In the past X has opposed most of the positions and policies that Y advocates. None of the requesters have asked for copies of documents from Y during the past year. Y has no other information about the requesters. Although the facts and circumstances show that some of the individuals making requests are hostile to Y, they do not show that the individuals have organized a campaign that will place enough of a burden on Y to disrupt its activities. Therefore, Y must respond to each of the 25 requests it receives in March.
The facts are the same as in Example 2, except that during March 1997, Y receives 100 requests. In addition to the fifteen requests from members of organization X's board, 75 of the requests are similarly worded form letters. Y discovers that several individuals associated with X have urged the X's members and supporters, via the Internet, to submit as many requests for a copy of Y's annual information returns as they can. The message circulated on the Internet provides a form letter that can be used to make the request. Both the appeal via the Internet and the requests for copies received by Y contain hostile language. During the same year but before the 100 requests were received, Y provided copies of its annual information returns to the headquarters of X. The facts and circumstances show that the 75 form letter requests are coordinated for the purpose of disrupting Y's operations, and not to collect information that has already been provided to an association representing the requesters' interests. Thus, the fact and circumstances show that Y is the subject of an organized harassment campaign. To confirm that it may disregard the 90 requests that constitute the harassment campaign, Y must apply to the applicable district director (or such other person as the Commissioner may designate) for a determination. Y may disregard the 90 requests while the application is pending and after the determination is received. However, it must respond within the applicable time limits to the 10 requests it received in March that were not part of the harassment campaign.
The facts are the same as in Example 3, except that Y receives 5 additional requests from 5 different representatives of the news media who in the past have published articles about Y. Some of these articles were hostile to Y. Normally, the Internal Revenue Service will not consider a tax-exempt organization to have a reasonable belief that a request from a member of the news media is part of a harassment campaign absent additional facts that demonstrate that the organization could reasonably believe the particular requests from the news media to be part of a harassment campaign. Thus, absent such additional facts, Y must respond within the applicable time limits to the 5 requests that it received from representatives of the news media.
(g) Effective date. For a tax-exempt organization, other than a private foundation, this section is applicable June 8, 1999. For a private foundation, this section is applicable beginning March 13, 2000.
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