Alexander L. Reid of Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP told Tax Analysts December 13 that putting the applications online would enable the press, whistleblowers, and public to perform “citizen audits” to see if the organizations merit exempt status and whether the IRS determinations unit is being an effective gatekeeper.
“I suspect lifting this particular rock will reveal a large number of creepy crawlies,” Reid said, adding that citizen audits tend to be unfair. “This will be awkward in the short run, and may result in some revocations [of exemption], but may not be such a bad thing in the long run.”
Posting the applications also might “usher in a race to the top where organizations will look for precedents on the IRS website for similar organizations to start with a successful application, then improve on it,” Reid said. But he added, “It could also do the opposite, because we will soon have a much better sense of what the lowest common denominator for a successful exemption application looks like, for better or worse.”