TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 940

IRS Logo 2News Max, Conservatives Slam Proposed IRS Rule That Charities Collect Donors' Social Security Numbers:

Conservatives and nonprofit groups Thursday slammed a proposed IRS rule that could require charities to collect and report Social Security numbers for donors who contribute $250 or more, with Washington attorney Cleta Mitchell expressing "shock and dismay" over the potential repercussions of such a requirement.

"I think about every little church, every charity that anybody gives money to," Mitchell told Newsmax in an interview. "How does any donor know whether a charity is going to be able to protect that information?"

Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, said the proposal "would be devastating for nonprofits and the general public.

"Nonprofits will be hurt because people will be reluctant to make a donation if it means they have to share their private Social Security number, plus it will divert limited resources away from missions to invest instead in costly new data security," Delaney said. ...

The public comment period ends on Dec. 16. If anyone requests public hearings on the proposed rule, they would be scheduled and notices would be published in the Federal Register. ...

The IRS proposed a similar rule in 2009, but rejected it after an investigation by the Government Accountability Office found — among other conclusions — that taxpayers might reduce their contributions "because they are reluctant to provide Social Security numbers to charities given concerns over identity theft." ...

However, a broader danger exists, according to Mitchell: the IRS targeting conservative groups and their donors for audits, thus drying up contributions.

"I've seen ample evidence that the IRS has used donor information — people who contribute to conservative organizations or Republican candidates, causes — to go after those people and target them for audits," she said.

Mitchell represented many tea party groups in lawsuits against the IRS and the Obama administration who had been targeted for special scrutiny by the tax agency in their applications for nonprofit status for several years leading up to the 2012 presidential election.

In October, the Justice Department closed a two-year investigation into the scandal without charging former supervisor Lois Lerner, who headed the department that screened the applications, or anyone else at the agency.

"Is that what they're trying to do?" Mitchell asked. "Being able to discourage people from contributing to charitable organizations? Is that what they're trying to do, so there'll be fewer people taking the charitable deduction?

"What's the public policy purpose of this?"

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