As the United States Congress continues to question the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its treatment of 501(c)(4) applications, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) issued the following statement after today's Senate Finance Committee hearing on the IRS investigation.
"The IRS made a dangerous mistake when it targeted certain groups for extra scrutiny in the past few years and in its decades-long abdication of responsibility for determining clear, bright lines for non-profit status. The IRS must articulate clear guidance to determine if a group that has filed as a non-profit, social welfare organization is primarily engaged in promoting the common good or in politics. Americans deserve a robust examination of the inappropriate screening over the past few years, and better guidance for the future."
Today's hearing featured testimony by Steven T. Miller, Acting Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service, Washington, D.C.; J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, United States Department of the Treasury, Washington, D.C.; and Douglas Shulman, Former IRS Commissioner, Washington, D.C.
During the hearing, Brown asked the panel of witnesses to properly clarify what specifically entails a 501(c)(4)'s purpose, which is meant to "primarily" promote social welfare. After the panel admitted that the IRS could have and should have answered that question more clearly over the decades, Brown asked pointedly how long the American people should have to wait for an answer from IRS leadership in Washington. He also asked what steps, if any, had been taken by the IRS to define a test to establish a clearer definition of political activity.
Brown is a member of the Senate Finance Committee. When news first broke that the IRS had targeted certain 501(c)(4) applicants, Brown immediately condemned the actions, stating last week that, "The IRS should never pick out one political viewpoint for extra scrutiny. As a Member of the Senate Finance Committee, I'll be working to ensure that there is a full investigation into this matter and appropriate disciplinary actions are taken. I look forward to learning all the facts."