The Internal Revenue Service and several conservative political groups, including the Waco Tea Party of Texas, are squabbling over the groups’ applications for tax-exempt status.
IRS officials say they must compile information to determine whether a group can qualify for the status. To be eligible for tax-exempt status under the federal tax code, an organization’s primary mission cannot be to influence an election. But it has some crying foul, claiming that the IRS is persecuting them for political reasons.
IRS officials make the decision on what a group’s main role is. In this instance, the IRS has asked the Waco Tea Party of Texas and other organizations to explain the content they posted on social networking sites, provide information about donors and supply copies of all handouts given to their members.
In the case of the Waco group, the IRS sent a letter to its officials in February asking them to outline whether the group has close ties with any candidate or party, as well as a list of upcoming events.
Other conservative groups have reported receiving similar correspondence from the IRS. Officials from some groups say they consider the IRS requests to be motivated by politics and impossible to fulfill. Since this is a federal election year, the IRS has come under scrutiny over its ability to monitor all tax-exempt groups tied to politics.
Tax experts say that while the requests might seem intrusive, but the IRS is charged with gathering adequate information in order to rule. While experts say the request is legitimate for the IRS to truly learn if a group has a political mission, others call it nothing more than a witch hunt.
One group said that after waiting more than a year to learn the status of its application, it only recently received a letter containing an extensive questionnaire due back in a short time. A survey containing 30 questions, board-meeting minutes and details regarding postings on Facebook and Twitter must be returned for the application to proceed.
Source: Associated Press, “IRS Tangles With Tea Party Including Local Group Over Tax-Exempt Status,” Alan Fram, March 1, 2012