Tipton Calls for Full Investigation into I.R.S. Targeting of Conservative Nonprofits

May 13, 2013 Issues: Constitutional Issues

WASHINGTON—Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO)  is calling for further investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s (I.R.S.) practice of targeting conservative groups seeking nonprofit status.

“More than a year ago I expressed concerns over reports from nonprofit conservative civic organizations being targeted by the I.R.S. with burdensome demands that would disrupt these organizations’ tax-exempt status, and their civic and social engagement,” Tipton said. “I am appalled by this heavy-handed abuse of power by the I.R.S. attempt to silence the voice of free speech and Democracy. It is deplorable whether aimed at conservative groups, liberal groups, or any other group that’s trying to express their point of view fully within the scope of the law. While I am encouraged that the truth is finally coming out, there needs to be further investigation into the extent of this practice and who was involved. And once we have a clear picture, those responsible at every level must be held accountable.”

Tipton submitted comments for the record during a March 22, 2012, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight hearing on Internal Revenue Service Operations and the 2012 Tax Return Filing Season. In his comments, Tipton wrote:

“I am concerned with I.R.S. efforts in relation to compliance that seem to be targeting the tax-exempt sector through new requests for additional information, as well as what I’m told is an unnecessary increase in audits on this particular sector…

“I find these additional requests to be extremely burdensome, invasive, and irrelevant when it comes to determining the status of these 501C3 and 501C4 organizations. I have heard from several Tea Party and liberty groups, who would appear to be unfairly targeted, about these practices and after examining the questions, many of these seem irrelevant with respect to determining their status. Requesting extremely detailed information with regards to certain membership activities, candidate forums, and even civic voter registration drives is worrisome, and it is my hope that this is legitimate and not intended to complicate the filing process for political reasons.”

In addition to these comments, Tipton joined a number of his House colleagues in an April 23, 2012, letter to I.R.S. Commissioner Douglas Shulman, writing:

“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 inquires 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.”

The I.R.S. sent a lengthy bureaucratic response on June 15, 2012, claiming no wrongdoing.