Some Groups Legitimately Flagged by IRS

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 27 2013 12:25 PM

Experts: At Least Some Groups Were Appropriately Flagged for Additional IRS Scrutiny

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A general view of the facade of the Internal Revenue Service's Manhattan office

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Representatives of conservative organizations have loudly complained about being unfairly targeted by the IRS while applying for tax-exempt status. But the New York Times examines a few of these organizations and says the IRS was probably right in flagging at least some of them for additional review. Although the 501(c)(4) groups are allowed some involvement in elections as part of their primary goal to promote “social welfare” it can’t be their main activity. And it isn’t just about money so it makes sense for IRS agents to look into a group’s activities in details.

Some of the groups also aren’t very forthcoming, a fact that could help explain why agents are sometimes suspicious. One group, for example, told the IRS it hadn't campaigned on behalf of a politician even though it had spent $8,000 on radio ads for a Republican candidate. Some contend that the criticism of the agency may be at least in part intended to make the IRS hesitant about its ongoing review of whether some 300 tax-exempt groups had an inappropriate level of political activity in recent years.

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This doesn’t necessarily mean that an investigation into the IRS is unnecessary. Indeed, “there are documented instances when the agency stepped beyond the lines of acceptability,” writes the Washington Post’s Jamelle Bouie. “What this shows, however, is that there’s still no substance behind the idea that it was engaged in political or ideological targeting.”

Meanwhile, even though lawmakers are on recess this week, that doesn’t mean they’re forgetting about the IRS scandal. Congressional staffers are carrying out behind-the-scenes work to make sure lawmakers can pick up where they left off next week, reports the Hill. For Republicans, the main goal now is to try to find a link that ties the White House to the scandal.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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