Suit planned over IRS designations
WASHINGTON — A top House Democrat plans to file a lawsuit in federal district court on Wednesday challenging the Internal Revenue Service's interpretation of a law that governs whether groups qualify for tax-exempt status as “social welfare organizations.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking minority-party member of the House Budget Committee, said on Tuesday that he will serve as lead plaintiff in the case, which addresses one of the main concerns that surfaced with the recent IRS targeting controversy: differences between federal law and the IRS rules on eligibility for 501(c)(4) candidates.
Current law says the organizations must engage “exclusively” in social welfare activities, but the IRS' tax code requires only that they are “primarily engaged” in such purposes. That discrepancy has led to confusion for application processors, who have struggled to determine what constitutes political activity and how much should disqualify groups from tax exemption, according to agency officials.
“I don't think the IRS should be in the business of determining whether the primary purpose of an organization is political or educational,” Van Hollen said. “The statute is very clear they should not be in that business.”
Dean Patterson, an IRS spokesman declined to comment on the planned suit but noted that the agency's 2013-2014 work plan, released Aug. 9, calls for new guidance on determining 501(c)(4) eligibility.
The IRS controversy arose from an inspector general's audit that found the agency inappropriately targeted applicants for extra scrutiny based on their names, which often suggested political preferences. The issue led to a string of congressional hearings, apologies from agency officials, ongoing congressional investigations and personnel actions, including the forced resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller.
House Republicans, especially Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.) and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.), have focused their investigative efforts on determining whether the behavior was designed to stifle conservative activism during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.
Democrats have largely attributed the problem to poor management and a lack of clarity on tax-exemption rules that caused processors to examine hundreds of cases more closely with guidance from IRS officials in Washington.
Three campaign finance watchdog groups — Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen — are joining Van Hollen in the lawsuit. They have scheduled a teleconference Wednesday to discuss the legal action.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a similar lawsuit against the IRS.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Suspect in killings of wealthy D.C. family arrested
- Ex-Va. lawmaker plans to wed teen in sex scandal
- Eldest Duggar child admits to molesting girls as teen
- Suspect in killings of wealthy DC family arrested
- S.C. beach town prepares for biker influx
- Senators push for full funding for Amtrak
- NSA extension up to senators
- Obama trade bill advances in Senate
- 6 Baltimore officers indicted in Gray’s death
- Dogs split from the wolf pack earlier than thought, DNA analysis suggests
- Santa Barbara oil spill rallies ‘green’ crusaders