Attorneys for The Daily Caller News Foundation and Cause of Action Institute jointly asked a federal judge Thursday to order the IRS to comply with the Freedom of Information Act by providing copies of documents related to the tax agency’s decision to grant exempt status to the Clinton Foundation.
In a suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, TheDCNF and CofA asked that federal tax agency officials be ordered to produce “records relating to the Clinton Foundation’s application for tax-exempt status, materials relating to and submitted in support of that application, and any updates to the application and supporting materials.”
The suit filed after the IRS responded to TheDCNF’s Aug. 23, 2016, FOIA request for the documents by refusing to search its records for the them. The agency then unilaterally closed the case without providing an opportunity for TheDCNF to amend its request.
The IRS did so because it claimed the requested documents were available through “routine agency procedures” and because the requested documents might violate Section 6103 of the federal tax code, which protects the privacy of individual tax returns.
TheDCNF appealed the IRS actions by arguing “that the FOIA precluded closure of the remainder of the request, that the IRS was required to search for responsive records before invoking any possible exemptions to disclosure, and that, in any event, the records in question were not protected from disclosure by Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code,” according to the suit.
The appeal also noted that the IRS did not follow its own rules for responding to FOIA requests, which requires officials to offer the requestor an opportunity to clarify its request.
The IRS denied TheDCNF appeal and closed the case a second time.
Similarly, on Sept. 28, 2016, CofA submitted an IRS Form 4506-A on behalf of TheDCNF seeking copies of “all Clinton Foundation Form 1023s, determination letters, and updated determination letters.” Form 1023 is the application for tax exemption, while determination letters describe the IRS decision on the application. To date, however, the IRS has not responded to the CofA, nor has it produced any of the requested documents.
“For years, the Clinton Foundation appears to have been operating beyond its IRS-approved tax-exempt status,” said Cause of Action Institute Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor James Valvo, who is representing the Daily Caller News Foundation in the suit.
“When a news organization files an open records request, agencies have an obligation to act. Our lawsuit compels the IRS to follow the law and search for any responsive records,” Valvo said.
Neil Patel, president of TheDCNF, said “the IRS is not exempt from the federal law that requires agency officials to search records for responsive documents and to give a requester a chance to modify a request for closing the case, yet the IRS acted as if they don’t have to comply with those requirements.”
Patel added that TheDCNF and CofA “aren’t asking for anything other than the court to order the IRS to comply with the law and give us the documents we’re seeking.”
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