Thursday, February 4, 2016
Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer (Notre Dame) presents Taxing Politics at Indiana today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium hosted by Leandra Lederman:
This draft Article addresses two key questions relating to the interaction between federal tax law and political activity. First, is it advisable as a policy matter for Congress to use the tax law to regulate the flows of money in politics in furtherance of non-tax goals such as combatting corruption, promoting equality, and encouraging democratic participation? I answer this first question generally no, in significant part because the tax law and the IRS are poorly suited for this role and suffer significant collateral damage when their poor fit becomes evident, as the ongoing controversy over the IRS’ handling of exemption applications filed by Tea Party and other conservative groups reveals. Second, does tax law in its current form treat political activity properly based on longstanding tax policies relating to what constitutes income, what expenses should be deductible, what constitutes a taxable gift, and what characteristics organizations should have in order to qualify for tax exemption?
I answer this second question generally yes, but identify several areas where the tax law needs to be changed to achieve greater consistency with such policies, including with respect to reducing the amount of political activity that is deemed permissible for most types of tax-exempt organizations.