Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
Office of Audit
INAPPROPRIATE CRITERIA Were used to IDENTIFY TAX-EXEMPT APPLICATIONS for review
Issued on May 14, 2013
Highlights of Report Number:† 2013-10-053 to the Internal Revenue Service Acting Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division.
IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax‑exempt status to review for indications of significant political campaign intervention.† Although the IRS has taken some action, it will need to do more so that the public has reasonable assurance that applications are processed without unreasonable delay in a fair and impartial manner in the future.
WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
TIGTA initiated this audit based on concerns expressed by members of Congress.† The overall objective of this audit was to determine whether allegations were founded that the IRS:† 1) targeted specific groups applying for tax‑exempt status, 2) delayed processing of targeted groupsí applications, and 3) requested unnecessary information from targeted groups.
WHAT TIGTA FOUND
The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax‑exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.† Ineffective management:† 1) allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months, 2) resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications, and 3) allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued.
Although the processing of some applications with potential significant political campaign intervention was started soon after receipt, no work was completed on the majority of these applications for 13 months.† This was due to delays in receiving assistance from the Exempt Organizations function Headquarters office.† For the 296 total political campaign intervention applications TIGTA reviewed as of December 17, 2012, 108 had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some for more than three years and crossing two election cycles).
More than 20 months after the initial case was identified, processing the cases began in earnest.† Many organizations received requests for additional information from the IRS that included unnecessary, burdensome questions (e.g., lists of past and future donors).† The IRS later informed some organizations that they did not need to provide the information that was previously requested.† IRS officials stated that any donor information received in response to a request from its Determinations Unit was later destroyed.
WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED
TIGTA recommended that the IRS finalize the interim actions taken, better document the reasons why applications potentially involving political campaign intervention are chosen for review, develop a process to track requests for assistance, develop and publish guidance, develop and provide training to employees before each election cycle, expeditiously resolve remaining political campaign intervention cases (some of which have been in process for three years), and request that social welfare activity guidance be developed by the Department of the Treasury.
In their response to the report, IRS officials agreed with seven of our nine recommendations and proposed alternative corrective actions for two of our recommendations.† TIGTA does not agree that the alternative corrective actions will accomplish the intent of the recommendations and continues to believe that the IRS should better document the reasons why applications potentially involving political campaign intervention are chosen for review and develop and publish guidance.
READ THE FULL REPORT
To view the report, including the scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to:
E-mail Address: ††TIGTACommunications@tigta.treas.gov
Phone Number:†† 202-622-6500