Sunday, May 12, 2013

IRS Inappropriately Targeted Conservative Groups in Selective Enforcement

A Policy as Stupid as It is Wrong

The IRS has a tricky enforcement problem involving tax exempt groups that pursue a political agenda.  A group can be tax exempt, it can pursue a political agenda supporting specific candidates,  but it cannot do both.  Advocacy groups all across the political spectrum come close to violating the regulations, and many do violate the regulations.

So the IRS should pursue those whom it thinks are in violation of the laws, but not on a selective basis.  But apparently this is exactly what they did.

The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.

Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.

If one can believe the IRS, always an iffy proposition with a government agency, the activity took place at a low level in one IRS center and top officials were not involved.

Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. After her talk, she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice. She did not say when they found out.

About 75 groups were inappropriately targeted. None had their tax-exempt status revoked, Lerner said.

But now it turns out that maybe higher ups in the agency were at least aware of the problem.  Mr. Obama needs to get on top of this, he needs to fire people and be seen as protecting the process.  One test of a democracy is does it provide protection for everyone.  About the best that can be said here is that at least the IRS openly admitted they were wrong.  This is something almost all of those targeted by the IRS would never do.

In addition to the political benefits from this story, conservative groups will also benefit from the fact that in the future the IRS will be almost powerless to stop any right wing tax exempt group from being openly political.  The gods of irony strike again, in an apparent attempt to reduce the tax exempt status of conservative organizations the actions only strenghtened them, tremendously.

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