Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Building in Washington 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Releasing a new set of documents this week, the Internal Revenue
Service has asserted that its auditing practices are not as politicized as some
have come to believe, ever since revelations last month that conservative groups
might have earned special attention by the tax collecting
Pushing back against those claims of misconduct with the release
of 15 redacted documents headed “Be On the Lookout,” the IRS attempted to show
that its auditing of various types of groups – including pro-Israel
organizations, groups whose activities classify as “occupied territory
advocacy,” and groups flagged by other key terms such as “medical marijuana” and
“progressive” – was not specifically targeting one political philosophy over
The Bloomberg news agency reported Monday that one progressive
Jewish group called Ameinu experienced a five-year delay after it applied for
501(c)3 tax-exemption status.
“I think they [the IRS] were painting with
a broad brush, with worries about Middle East ties to terrorism,” Hiam Simon,
national director of Ameinu, told Bloomberg. “I don’t think it was caused by
Ignorance is too strong a word, too. They simply weren’t nuanced
enough or careful enough.”
Concerning similar complaints from another
Israel advocacy organization called Z Street, Jon Waddell, manager of the Exempt
Organizations Determinations Group at the IRS, wrote that Simon’s concerns were
“Israel is one of many Middle Eastern countries that
have a ‘higher risk of terrorism,’” said Waddell.
“A referral to TAG [the
Touch and Go Group, a unit in the IRS’s Cincinnati branch] is appropriate
whenever an application mentions providing resources to organizations in a
country with a higher risk of terrorism,” he said.
But a look at the IRS
code on tax-exemption procedures clarifies what Waddell means by “higher risk of
Procedure requires that Waddell and his team take into
account the activities of an organization that are deemed to place resources in
danger. This includes activities or grants in foreign countries flagged by the
State Department as having “trends” in terrorism.
automatically prompt legal procedures, such as questioning through further
Democrats on Capitol Hill have reacted with angst that
progressives were also targeted by the IRS, mixed with a sigh of relief that the
controversy may not reveal a completely partisan scheme. Republican lawmakers,
meanwhile, continue to push for investigations into the service.