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Highlights

The tax-exempt sector under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code covers over a million-and-a-half entities of varying sizes and purposes. Its diversity allows it to address the needs of many citizens. To help it do so, Congress and some in the tax-exempt sector itself encourage good governance practices by exempt entities. Transparency over exempt entities' activities is aided by public access to their annual tax returns. As the nation's tax administrator, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a key role in overseeing this sector. Oversight can help ensure adherence to exempt purposes, protect against abuses, and sustain public support for the sector. The Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means asked GAO to address (1) the growth of the section 501(c) tax-exempt sector; (2) the role of governance and transparency in ensuring that tax-exempt entities function effectively and with integrity; (3) IRS's capacity for overseeing the exempt sector, including its results and efforts to address critical compliance problems; and (4) states' oversight and their relationship with IRS in overseeing the tax-exempt sector.

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