May 13, 2013

IRS singled out groups critical of government

Staffers in the Cincinnati field office made high-level decisions on how to evaluate nonprofit groups.

By JULIET EILPERIN The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

On June 29, 2011, according to the documents, IRS staffers held a briefing with Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where "statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run." She raised an objection and the agency adopted a more general set of standards.

But six months later, the IRS applied a new political test to social welfare groups, the document says. On Jan. 15, 2012, the agency decided to look at "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement," according to the appendix in the IG report,

The agency did not appear to adopt a more neutral test for 501(c)(4) groups until May 17, 2012, according to the timeline in the inspector general's report. At that point, the IRS again updated its criteria to focus on "organizations with indicators of significant amounts of political campaign intervention (raising questions as to exempt purpose and/or excess private benefit.)"

Toby Marie Walker, president of the Waco Tea Party, said the IRS subjected her group to a series of unreasonable requests after they applied for tax-exempt status in June 2010. The requests came in early 2012, after they were initially informed by an official in the Cincinnati field office that he was "sitting on a stack of tea party applications and they were awaiting word from higher-ups as to how to process them."

The agency asked the group's treasurer to supply information on its "close relationship" with current candidates and elected officials as well as future candidates, along with detailed information about its contributors and members. The IRS also asked for transcripts of any radio interviews its officials had done and hard copies of any news article mentioning them.

"That would take me years to do," Walker said, noting that in some cases, Chinese media outlets referred to her organization. "Am I responsible for every news article across the globe?"

The group had even more difficulty providing transcripts and details of speakers at their events, since they hosted informal gatherings such as "rant contests" where anyone could come and express their views.

 

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