The Internal Revenue Service “inappropriately flagged” conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.
Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.
In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.
“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.
However, it’s certainly worth noting that IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman — a Bush appointee whose 6-year term ended in November — told Congress in March 2012 that the IRS was not targeting groups based on their political views.
“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman told a House Ways and Means subcommittee.
The question is, did the IRS do this on their own or was there an order which came down from higher-up?
Either way, this illustrates the jeopardy our tax structure puts free speech in. Be it churches, issues groups or political groups, “non-profit” status is a powerful tool through which the government can control speech.