Over that last couple of months select organizations, such as the Waco Tea Party and other conservative organizations across the nation, have received onerous and subjective questionnaires from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding their nonprofit status. U.S. Congressman Bill Flores (R-Texas) along with sixty-two other Members of Congress sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, requesting a response as to how these informational requests are consistent with precedent and supported by law.
"The IRS is supposed to enforce our tax laws with integrity and fairness. Yet, when certain groups are targeted for further scrutiny based on ideology, you begin to lose confidence in and question the integrity of the IRS," said Congressman Bill Flores. "Americans deserve and demand transparency from government agencies, as well as compliance with current law. Today, we are asking for the IRS to explain the reasoning behind the egregious treatment of these organizations who, in good faith with our laws, have applied for 501(c) tax-exempt status."
The Congressional delegation that has signed onto this letter is concerned about the excessively long IRS review times (some as long as two years from the initial applications), ambiguous questions, overly broad requests, and unreasonably short response deadlines. For example, some of the requests made by the IRS include providing records of every oral statement ever provided by any member of the organization and vague probes into associations with private citizens.
"The IRS seems to be enacting a highly political agenda by sending out these vague and burdensome requests," Flores said. "What is particularly troubling about these probes is that they seem to only target conservative civic organizations. The requests include intrusive questioning, which can infringe on the groups rights to freedom of association and speech. I am also concerned that these requests are intended to suppress these rights ahead of the upcoming 2012 elections."
Below is the full text of the letter
The Honorable Douglas H. Shulman
Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service
Room 3000 IR
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20224
Dear Commissioner Shulman:
It has come to our attention that numerous nonprofit civic organizations across the country have experienced extensive delays and received excessively burdensome information requests in connection with their applications for tax-exempt status under 26 U.S.C. §501(c). These requests have included demands for complete records of every oral statement ever provided by any member of the organization, vague probes into tangential associations with private citizens and excessively long questionnaires all to be returned within unreasonably short time periods. These demands go well beyond good-faith due diligence and appear designed to be logistically and financially impossible to comply with.
Tax-exempt status exists to ensure that taxation does not hinder citizens' engagement in social welfare and civic activities. To wit, 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(4)(A) exempts "[c]ivic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes." Further, the I.R.S. has affirmed that these organizations "may carry on lawful political activities and remain exempt as long as it is primarily engaged in activities that promote social welfare." (Rev. Rule 81-95, 1981-1 C.B. 332)
These recent inquiries appear to constitute disparate treatment for no apparent reason other than the political persuasion of applicants. Such practices chill these groups' Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to civic participation, freedom of association and free speech and are better left to despotic regimes than a revenue-collection agency in a free country.
It does not appear that the missions and activities of these organizations require information beyond the scope of Form 1024 and Schedule B, which we understand to have been traditionally required. We request that you provide a response demonstrating how these recent requests by the I.R.S. are consistent with precedent and supported by law. We further request that the I.R.S. refrain from any additional unwarranted and excessive information demands and other dilatory tactics.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your timely response.
Bill Flores (R-Texas), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), John Fleming (R-La.), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Charles Boustany (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R-Texas), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Todd Akin (R-Mo.), Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.), Steve King (R-Iowa), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), John Kline (R-Minn.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), Tom Graves (R-Ga.), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.), Jeff Landry (R-La.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas), Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Cliff Sterns (R-Fla.), Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), Robert Latta (R-Ohio), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Connie Mack (R-Fla.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)