February 12, 2014

Crapo Co-Sponsors Bill To Prevent IRS Targeting

Legislation would protect the freedom of speech and political beliefs of all Idahoans

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo has joined Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and 38 senate colleagues to introduce the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act.  This bill would prevent further targeting of conservative social welfare organizations by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by reverting back to the IRS standards and definitions that were in place on January 1, 2010-a date prior to the agency's targeting.  The bill also suspends for one year any IRS rulemaking related to 501(c)(4)s. 

"Since learning of the inexcusable IRS targeting, the American people have been demanding strong reforms to ensure these actions never happen again," Crapo said.  "While congressional investigations continue into the IRS activity, it is paramount that Congress begin the process of establishing reforms that protect Idahoans' freedom of speech and their ability to exercise their political beliefs.  Using tax scrutiny to silence political dissent is intolerable and undermines the principles our nation was founded upon. Congress should act quickly to complete the investigations and enact these reforms."

On November 29, 2013, the IRS issued a proposed rule broadly defining political activity.  Under this definition, social welfare organizations would face limitations on their participation in voter registration, voter education, communications that mention a candidate or party, grants to 527s and events in which a candidate participates, among other activities.  These rules were issued despite the ongoing debate as to whether the IRS should be involved in defining political activity at all.  In a July 2013 Special Report to Congress, Nina Olson, the nonpartisan National Taxpayer Advocate, recommended that the IRS leave the job of defining political activity to the Federal Election Commission or another agency with greater experience and expertise in such matters.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration's (TIGTA) audit of the IRS Exempt Organization Determinations office in Cincinnati, Ohio, released its report on May 14, 2013.  The audit revealed the IRS was using terms such as "tea party" and "liberty" to discriminate against conservative groups for further scrutiny on 501(c)(4) applications.  At subsequent stages of the IRS activities, groups involved with "limiting government," "educating on the Constitution," and "social economic reform" were subject to similar treatment.  Based on the TIGTA report, these actions date back to at least early 2010.