Advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum have joined together to condemn the Internal Revenue Service’s practice of discriminating against applications for tax-exempt status based solely on the perceived political leanings of the applicants, and are urging Congress to conduct vigorous oversight to determine the full scope of the misconduct.
In a statement organized by TCP and released on May 16, the groups – which included the ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, TCP and the Tea Party Express – said, “It is difficult to conceive of a more serious threat to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States than the federal government using its awesome power to target individuals and organizations solely because of their political beliefs.”
According to a recently released report by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), beginning around March 2010, the IRS applied special scrutiny to applications from politically conservative groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names. For example, these groups were asked to provide lists of donors or answer burdensome, intrusive, and inappropriate questions about their work.
“This kind of selective enforcement of the laws, including the potential for retaliation against groups with political beliefs counter to those in charge of the IRS, has a chilling effect on the constitutional rights of public policy advocacy organizations,” TCP president Virginia Sloan said in a press release.
The groups called for an independent review by the Secretary of the Treasury and the IRS Oversight Board, a nine-member independent body charged to oversee the IRS. In addition, they said Congress and the Obama administration need to develop content-neutral standards for reviewing applications for tax-exempt status that can be fairly and effectively administered by the IRS.