VIA FACSIMILE AND US MAIL
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
Re: REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION INTO IRS AGENCY MISCONDUCT
Landmark Legal Foundation (“Landmark”) requests an immediate investigation into possible misconduct by the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organization (EO) Division that calls into question the integrity of federal tax administration and IRS programs.
Recent media reports indicate that the EO Division is using inappropriate and intimidating investigation tactics in the administration of applications for exempt status submitted by organizations associated with the Tea Party movement. (Exhibit A, Perry Chiaramonte, “Numerous Tea Party chapters claim IRS attempts to sabotage nonprofit status,” FoxN ews.com, http://www.foxnews.comlpolitics/20 12/02/28/nurnerous-tea-partychapters-claim-irs-attempting -to-sabotage-non-profit-status/print# (February 28, 2012)). Reports indicate that as many as 20 groups are being targeting for improper treatment. (Exhibit B, “IRS Accused of ‘Intimidation Campaign’ Against Tea Party,” CNSNews.com, http://cnsnews.comlnews/article/irs-accused-intimidation-campaign-against-tea-party-groups (March 7,2012)).
The information demanded in many cases goes far beyond the appropriate level of inquiry regarding the religious, charitable and/or educational activities of a tax exempt entity.
The inquiries are not relevant to these permitted activities. Inquiries extend to organizational policy positions and priorities, personal and political affiliations, and associations of staff, board members and even family members of staff and board members. (Exhibit A). In at least one reported incident, the IRS requested an organization’s relationship with a private individual who does not have any relationship with the applicant or with any political candidate or organization.
(Exhibit C, Justin Binik-Thomas, “Why is the IRS asking Tea Party groups if they know me?”, Washington Examiner, (http://washingtonexaminer.coml2012/03/why-irs-asking-tea-partygroups-if-they-know-me/377566) (March 16,2012)).
Specific examples of improper inquiries from one IRS investigation include, but are not limited to, questions seeking:
5. List each past or present board member, officer, key employee and members of their families who:
a) Has served on the board of another organization.
b) Was, is or plans to be a candidate for public office. Indicate the nature of each candidacy.
c) Has previously conducted similar activities for another entity.
d) Has previously submitted an application for tax exempt status.
8. Please provide the following regarding your merchandise sales:
a) A vendor list. Indicate if the vendor is a related party.
b) A list of items sold.
c) Your cost for each item.
d) The selling price of each item.
13. Fully describe your youth outreach program with the local school district.
14. Provide information regarding the Butler County Teen Age Republicans and your relationship.
16. Provide a list of all issues that are important to your organization. Indicate your position regarding each issue.
25. It appears you have received training (EmpowerU). Provide the following for all persons or organizations that have provided educational services to you:
a) The name of the person or organization.
b) A full description of the services provided.
c) The political affiliation of the person or organization.
d) A copy of the educational material used.
26. Provide details regarding your relationship with Justin Bink-Thornas (sic).
34. Has your organization engaged in any activities with the news media? If so, please describe those activities in further detail and, if available, provide copies of articles printed or transcripts of items aired because of that activity. News media activity may include the following:
a) Newspaper advertisements
b) Press releases
c) Interviews with news media
d) Letters to the editor
e) Op-ed pieces
(Exhibit D, March 1,2012 IRS Letter, http://binikthomas.com/sunshine/IRS Redact.pdt).
This level of inquiry goes well beyond the scope of the Form 1023 application for exempt status and appears to be improper. As you are aware, to qualify as a tax-exempt organization under SOI(c)(3), the organization must prove that it is both organized and operated exclusively for tax-exempt purposes. Treas. Reg. Sec. l.S01(c)(3)-I(d)(1)(i)(a). To meet the organizational test, it must show that its Articles of Incorporation do not authorize it to undertake any nonexempt activity. 26 V.S.C. Sec. SOI(c)(3)-I(b)(i)(iii). To meet the operational text, the organization must show that it operates exclusively for exempt purposes, that it has no substantial non-exempt purpose, and that no benefits inure from it to private individuals. Treas.
Reg. Sec. l.S01(c)(3)-I(c). Any inquiry by the Service should be limited to determining whether an applicant satisfies both the “organizational” and “operation” tests. The questions presentedherein go well beyond making such a determination.
Moreover, inquiries about personal associations and political viewpoints are not only inappropriate, but impinge upon constitutionally-protected freedoms of speech and association.
Although the Internal Revenue Code has limited the tax exemption subsidy ofSOI(c)(3) organizations to groups that do not participate in political activity, the Service must still tread lightly when dealing with fundamental constitutional rights. Inquiring about the positions a prospective organization adopts on various policy issues serves no valid purpose if the organization does not engage in political activity. Such inquiries appear to be designed only to intimidate the applicants. As it has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court, the government cannot regulate political speech with laws that chill permissible speech. Finally, reports that Tea Party-related organizations are being singled out for the IRS’s intrusive inquires raises serious questions about the propriety of the personnel involved in the evaluation of tax exemption applications.
Landmark Legal Foundation respectfully requests an immediate and thorough investigation to determine whether IRS employees are acting improperly in the evaluation of exempt status applications. This investigation also must determine whether the relevant IRS employees are acting at the direction of politically motivated superiors.