Paul L. Caron

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1067

Hackney Philip Hackney (LSU), Incorrect Claims About IRS Given Bullhorn on TaxProf:

Just a heads up that a story you posted on April 9, 2016 on the "IRS Scandal, Day 1066" entitled Renew America, Most Dangerous Year for Free Speech in U.S. History, by Bryan Fischer, contains incorrect information that appears to me to be a deliberate falsehood. It claims that the IRS denied the applications for tax-exempt status of 67 organizations last year. That is true. But it also claims that of those 67 denials, 57 were denials of "religious groups." I see a lot of bad information in the stories you post regarding the "IRS scandal," but this one jumped out at me as clearly wrong and likely to cause harm. 

Fischer based his claims on the Free Beacon story entitled IRS Denied Tax-Exempt Status to 57 Religious Groups in 2015. The IRS report from which the reporter derived her information is here. In Table 24 of that document the IRS states that it denied 57 501(c)(3) "religious, charitable and similar organizations" during the particular taxable period. In other words the denials the reporter claims were for strictly "religious groups" were denials for 501(c)(3) organizations generally. She just conveniently left off the other qualifiers from that report and that failure still shows up on TaxProf blog, in Fischer’s story, and in the headline to the reporter’s story.  

While from the information the reporter used, it might have been theoretically possible that all 57 were in fact "religious groups," a little bit of work would have shown that claim to be false. I located 42 of the 57 denials issued during the taxable period (technically 10/1/14 - 9/30/15) and listed them below. Only two of 42 denials I located were denials as to "religious groups." The reporter failed to do any work to track that down. Fischer repeated that falsehood and TaxProf Blog magnified that falsehood.

The author plays fast and loose with the facts in order to presumably inflame tensions on this issue. There are other issues with the article, but that one is the most egregious. Many of the stories you post from right wing or religious press contain such significant problems. Such lies have real world consequences on real people who work for the IRS. Such lies have deep implications for the administration of the tax system. I wish you would reconsider the publication of reporting that contains such deliberate falsehoods. Please consider posting corrections as other media outlets do when the facts are found to be incorrect. This one deserves a correction.

Thanks for hearing me out.

UPDATE: In what appears to be a modest modification of the story after I first sent you this letter, the reporter in the Free Beacon now claims: “The IRS rejected a total of 67 applications for tax-exempt status in 2015, and religious groups comprised the majority of denials.” This claim is still wrong for same reasons discussed above.

Denials in the relevant period that were on mundane EO matters such as helping kids, working with open source software, fundraising and stock racing cars: Denial 201452017, 201502017, 201503016, 201504017, 201505039, 201505042, 201507023, 201507026, 201505040, 201505041, 201507025, 201509039, 201510059, 201511024, 201514011, 201514013, 201516066, 201515037, 201517019, 201517008, 201519035, 201523021, 201525011, 201525012, 201525014, 201527043, 201529012, 201529013, 201533014, 201534020, 201535019, 201540016, 201540019, 201545030, 201545031, 201545028, 201545029, 201548021, 201548025, 20155004

RELIGIOUS GROUP Denial 201523022, 201526020 

Editor's note:  As I have repeatedly said:

“My goal [in covering the IRS Scandal is] to link to every single press report about the scandal – from both the right and the left. Because the right covers the scandal much more than the left, I have linked to many more stories from the right than from the left. Check out Day 883.”

I do not need to "consider posting corrections as other media outlets do when the facts are found to be incorrect" — my policy since Day 1 of my coverage has been to post all corrections and opposing views on TaxProf Blog.  Indeed, when Professor Hackney contacted me yesterday, I encouraged him (as I have done with others who have objected to particular posts) to write the response that appears above.

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink


I see from your links that you have criticized the IG on several occasions; but you forgot one essential point: Lois Lerner apologized on behalf of the IRS for its conduct, not the content or findings of the IG. Personally, I don't agree with your opinions, nor do your opinions agree with Lois Lerner's public expressions. Now, I will agree that Lois Lerner probably was trying to preempt the impending IG report when she made her statement; but she made it and she will have to explain it if she ever decides or is forced to do so. As my mother used to say: "you made your bed, now lie it in" and, for what it's worth, it appears that Lois is not so inclined.

Posted by: jmillican | Apr 12, 2016 10:21:48 AM

Regardless, TaxProf is and always will be an invaluable resource.

Posted by: Darryll K. Jones | Apr 11, 2016 8:42:44 AM

Hi JMillican. You can see my article on the question of targeting and the culpability of the IRS on the issue here: Additionally, I looked at the targeting claim very early on in the process here: You may not appreciate my perspective or agree with it, but I hope you respect that I am doing my best to get at the truth on these issues. I care about the issue a lot. I appreciate that you do too.

Posted by: Philip Hackney | Apr 10, 2016 4:56:39 PM

Was Prof. Hackney as quick to point out that between 2010 and 2012 the IRS "Instead of referring to the cases as advocacy cases, they actually used case names on this [bolo] list. They used names like Tea Party or Patriots and they selected cases simply because the applications had those names in the title. That was wrong, that was absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate — that’s not how [the IRS should] go about selecting cases for further review. [The IRS doesn't] select for review because they have a particular name"?

Posted by: jmillican | Apr 10, 2016 3:24:02 PM

Thank you Prof. Hackney. As President Lincoln is reputed to have said, "Always do the right thing; it will gratify some and amaze the rest." And then there are those for whom the right-wing narrative is psychologically validating, who fit into neither category.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Apr 10, 2016 1:51:11 PM

Is the good professor equally worried about IRS lies from left wing sources, or does he deny them, or just ignore that they exist? Just wondering.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie | Apr 10, 2016 9:26:20 AM

I really appreciate your ongoing attention to this matter. Hopefully someone will eventually be held accountable for the information leak that got Mozilla's CEO removed for donating to a political cause he believes in.

Posted by: BenJCarter | Apr 10, 2016 8:47:25 AM