Members of Congress in Both Parties Say IRS Owes an Explanation
Members of Congress are finding rare bipartisan common ground in blasting the IRS for singling out conservative nonprofits for extra scrutiny.
Ninth District Republican Todd Young serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which held a first hearing on the IRS last week and plans more. Young says the agency needs to clarify exactly who instructed agents to flag applications from groups with conservative-sounding names. And he says there needs to be systemwide tax reform -- he says the convoluted nature of the tax code is what made abuses possible.
Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly says it'll take more information to offer a prescription for preventing similar issues, but he calls the IRS actions "outrageous." He says politics should never be a factor in any taxpayer's treatment by the IRS.
At issue is the section of the tax code known as 501(c)(4), which allows nonprofit groups which promote "social welfare" to apply for tax-exempt status. Unlike 501(c)(3) groups, they're allowed to engage in political activity, as long as it isn't their primary purpose. The IRS has acknowledged homing in on groups with words like "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their names, and demanding reams of documentation before acting on their applications.
The agency has contended it made an ill-advised attempt to find a shortcut after being deluged with applications following a Supreme Court decision making it easier for outside groups to wade into campaigns. But Young says the IRS policy began before the number of 501(c)(4) applications began to rise significantly.
Donnelly and Young say Congress needs to use its oversight power to determine just what happened.