Paul L. Caron

Friday, May 10, 2013

IRS Admits to Targeting Conservative Groups in 2012 Election

IRS Logo 2After months of denying that the IRS has been targeting tea party groups for special scrutiny, Lois Lerner, Director of the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division, admitted that the IRS had been giving additional scrutiny to applications for tax-exempt status from goups with the "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their title. She denied there was any political motivation and blamed the practice on a low-level employee in Cincinnati.

Update:  The IRS has released this statement.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

IRS News, Tax | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference IRS Admits to Targeting Conservative Groups in 2012 Election:


Can I just play devil's advocate here and think back to when the decision was law says these new designation for advocacy groups (2010 rules I think?) but easy if not very educated up on the rules to step over the line...Somebody poor sap in Cincinnati is charged with enforcement of these new rules...where are you most likely to find some fired-up people that are going to screw up as they think the Gov't (and the IRS) is the enemy anyway...just do a search for "tea party" and "patriot" and you probably have the easiest targets vs. "save the whales" who have a dozen pro bono lawyers working with them and doing their filings for them...poor idiot...they are now forever part of a "who really killed Kennedy" conspiracy for the rest of their lives....Does anybody agree with me this the likely source here????

Posted by: Tiredcritique | May 13, 2013 7:31:21 PM

"She denied there was any political motivation and blamed the practice on a low-level employee in Cincinnati."
Just because a lower level employee did the actual deed does not rule out political motivation. The deed itself, specifically targeting groups of one political pursuasion, is a political act. The only real question is whether the political motivation came solely from a rogue lower level employee (in which case you fire them and be done with it), or whether this political act was encouraged, and then ignored and covered up, by higher level people.

Posted by: richard40 | May 12, 2013 9:46:11 AM

Sadly, lost in all this is the fact that if you look at the IRS website you can see how long it takes Cincinnati to process applications for tax-exemption (currently working applications filed in March 2012).

Sadly, if you asked attorneys who practice in this area a some of the language that has been hyped up (not the specific questions) is boilerplate that is in every letter when an organization gets even one simple question such as provide your by-laws or articles of incorporation.

Sadly, the law--IRC 501(c)(4)--uses the word "exclusively," but this has been interpreted as primarily. If the IRS had applied 501(c)(4) as written from the inception NONE of the organizations crying foul would qualify because NONE are/were operated EXCLUSIVELY for social welfare--they engage in political activity.

SOLUTION: Invalidate any Regulations and Rulings that do not follow the letter of IRC sec. 501(c)(4) which provides tax-exempt status ONLY for "Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated EXCLUSIVELY for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes." It shouldn't take much to figure out whether a Org qualifies with a black and white line of exclusivity.

Posted by: taxguy | May 11, 2013 1:02:03 PM

I just taped a VIDEO RESPONSE to the IRS:

Jenny Hatch 
Colorado Tea Party Organizer

Posted by: Jenny Hatch | May 10, 2013 6:39:30 PM

Internal Jizya Service.

Posted by: Edwin Willers | May 10, 2013 3:03:02 PM

So groups opposed to some of the president's policies were inappropriately targeted by a part of the executive branch during an election year. Why would anyone think that politics had anything to do with that?

Posted by: malclave | May 10, 2013 2:54:46 PM

The proper response is tar & feathers.

Posted by: rolo | May 10, 2013 2:54:03 PM

I would be more likely to believe that it was a low-level employee at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.

Posted by: David R. Block | May 10, 2013 2:20:00 PM

The IRS doing this is a fundamental betrayal of the American people. Anyone in that department should be fired. All the way up to the regional administrator. And then prosecuted.
And just think, Obama was giving a speech the other day advising a graduating class to ignore those people warning of government tyranny.

Posted by: Jack | May 10, 2013 1:57:58 PM

NO this was not a "low level employee". The IRS employees involved, from the low level employee to the dept head should be identified, fired and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

This has gone far enough.

Posted by: Jack | May 10, 2013 1:55:14 PM

The IRS is really really really sorry... it got caught.

Posted by: Dane Gunderson | May 10, 2013 1:29:03 PM

So, the IRS scandal is brought up on the Friday afternoon that the document dump on Benghazi is to take place, so as to divide the attention of those actually asking questions.

Was Ms. Lerner asked to walk the plank, or ordered?

Posted by: uncle | May 10, 2013 1:26:07 PM

Ms. Lerner blames it on a low level employee. White House Press Spokesman Jay Carney blames it on George W. Bush--noting at one of the two chief heads of the IRS was actually appointed by George Bush.

So who's right? [I've got my tongue way in my cheek. Both of these folks are blowing smoke.]

Posted by: Comanche Voter | May 10, 2013 1:07:15 PM

"She denied there was any political motivation and blamed the practice on a low-level employee in Cincinnati."

No story here, move along... There is no way that the tone set at the top of this administration and in its public messaging had anything to do with this, never!

Posted by: Todd | May 10, 2013 12:23:15 PM