TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1329:  Did The IRS's Targeting Of Conservative Groups Lead It To Grant Tax-Exempt Status To 'Hate Groups'?

IRS Logo 2Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dozens of ‘Hate Groups’ Have Charity Status, Chronicle Study Finds:

The federal government has granted tax-exempt status to more than 60 controversial nonprofits branded by critics as "hate groups," including anti-immigrant and anti-gay-rights organizations, white nationalists, and Holocaust deniers, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy analysis.

The issue is a thorny one for the Internal Revenue Service, which must balance First Amendment rights against concerns that it is essentially granting government subsidies to groups holding views that millions of Americans may find abhorrent. Complicating matters, the IRS is already under fire from critics who say the agency has discriminated against conservative political organizations. ...

Still shaken by the revelation that agency leaders had singled out conservative advocacy groups’ applications for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, the IRS has little incentive to investigate organizations based on the content of their messages.

The Surly Subgroup:  White Nationalists Groups are Charitable? Apparently so According to IRS, by Phillip Hackney (LSU):

How do [hate groups] qualify [for tax exempt status]? ... There are two answers. ...

Reason 2: The IRS is afraid. This seems like a reasonable argument after all the Tea Party difficulties that the IRS experienced, BUT . . . the IRS has denied other controversial groups tax exemption who are ostensibly educating as well. See: Principle Voices of Polygamy private letter ruling where the IRS denied a group advocating for polygamy on the basis that what it violated public policy by advocating for something that is illegal. The point is that the IRS went after an advocacy group in 2013. With that said, the Tea Party controversy occurred in 2013 and so maybe this is a reason it would not go after such groups now.

Salon, White Nationalists Have Raised Millions Thanks to Tax-Exempt Charities:

Some tax experts said the IRS is still feeling the sting from conservative critics over its 2013 concession that it unfairly gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. “I don’t think they’re feeling very brave right now,” said Ellen Aprill, a tax law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

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