Rep. Joe Barton released the following statement after the IRS revealed it was targeting certain conservative groups and their political ideology when reviewing requests for tax-exempt status:
"The IRS shouldn't be acting as a political enforcer. Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, all Americans should be appalled by the IRS's admission that it targeted groups based on their political affiliation. Just over a year ago I joined my colleagues in an effort to shine a light on this issue. We wrote the IRS Commissioner saying that targeting conservative groups with "excessively burdensome information requests' is an infringement on their "Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to civic participation, freedom of association and free speech and are better left to despotic regimes than a revenue collecting agency in a free country.' Agency leaders denied the allegations, while agents kept running tea party groups through the gauntlet.
"A simple apology won't fix an attack on people's constitutional rights. We need a full investigation into what happened and why. This sort of government instituted political harassment can't be tolerated in a free society."
Below is the full text of the letter, which was sent to the IRS Commissioner on April, 24 2012:
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.
Joe Barton (R-Texas), 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.), 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.)