Revised IRS Procedures for Issuance of Ruling and Information Letters

The IRS has issued revised procedures for the issuance of ruling letters and information letters on matters under the jurisdiction of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division (TE/GE):  Rev. Proc. 2009-4.  According to the IRS, most of the changes to Rev. Proc. 2008-4 involve minor revisions, such as updating citations to other revenue procedures.  Some of the areas covered by the Revenue Procedure:

Section 3. In What Form is Guidance Provided by the Commissioner, TE/GE?  "The Service provides guidance in the form of letter rulings, closing agreements, compliance statements, determination letters, opinion letters, advisory letters, information letters, revenue rulings, and oral advice."

Section 6. Under What Circumstances Does TE/GE Issue Letter Rulings?  "In exempt organizations matters, the Exempt Organizations Technical Office issues letter rulings on proposed transactions and on completed transactions if the request is submitted before the return is filed for the year in which the transaction that is the subject of the request was completed."

Section 9. What are the General Instructions for Requesting Letter Rulings and Determination Letters?

To request expedited handling. The Service ordinarily processes requests for letter rulings and determination letters in order of the date received. Expedited handling means that a request is processed ahead of the regular order. Expedited handling is granted only in rare and unusual cases, both out of fairness to other taxpayers and because the Service seeks to process all requests as expeditiously as possible and to give appropriate deference to normal business exigencies in all cases not involving expedited handling.

A taxpayer who has a compelling need to have a request processed ahead of the regular order may request expedited handling. This request must explain in detail the need for expedited handling. The request must be made in writing, preferably in a separate letter with, or soon after filing, the request for the letter ruling or determination letter. If the request is not made in a separate letter, then the letter in which the letter ruling or determination letter request is made should say, at the top of the first page: “Expedited Handling Is Requested. See page ___ of this letter.”

A request for expedited handling will not be forwarded to the appropriate group for action until the check or money order for the user fee in the correct amount is received.

Whether the request will be granted is within the Service’s discretion. The Service may grant a request when a factor outside a taxpayer’s control creates a real business need to obtain a letter ruling or determination letter before a certain time in order to avoid serious business consequences. Examples include situations in which a court or governmental agency has imposed a specific deadline for the completion of a transaction, or a transaction must be completed expeditiously to avoid an imminent business emergency (such as the hostile takeover of a corporate taxpayer), provided that the taxpayer can demonstrate that the deadline or business emergency, and the need for expedited handling, resulted from circumstances that could not reasonably have been anticipated or controlled by the taxpayer. To qualify for expedited handling in such situations, the taxpayer must also demonstrate that the taxpayer submitted the request as promptly as possible after becoming aware of the deadline or emergency. The extent to which the letter ruling or determination letter complies with all of the applicable requirements of this revenue procedure, and fully and clearly presents the issues, is a factor in determining whether expedited treatment will be granted. When the Service agrees to process a request out of order, it cannot give assurance that any letter ruling or determination letter will be processed by the time requested. The scheduling of a closing date for a transaction or a meeting of the board of directors or shareholders of a corporation, without regard for the time it may take to obtain a letter ruling or determination letter, will not be considered a sufficient reason to process a request ahead of its regular order. Also, the possible effect of fluctuation in the market price of stocks on a transaction will not be considered a sufficient reason to process a request out of order.

Because most requests for letter rulings and determination letters cannot be processed ahead of their regular order, the Service urges all taxpayers to submit their requests well in advance of the contemplated transaction. In addition, in order to facilitate prompt action on letter ruling requests taxpayers are encouraged to ensure that their initial submissions comply with all of the requirements of this revenue procedure (including the requirements of other applicable guidelines set forth in section 10 of this revenue procedure), and to provide any additional information requested by the Service promptly.

Appendix A – Sample Format for a Letter Ruling Request