IRS apologizes for unfair treatment of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status

The Internal Revenue Service admits delays and heightened scrutiny for conservative groups was wrong when determining tax-exempt status in 2013.The US Justice Department has since settled two lawsuits by conservative groups regarding the claims.

J. David Ake/AP/file
The Internal Revenue Service has apologized for the unfair treatment of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status as the US Justice Department settles two 2013 lawsuits with conservative groups.

The US Justice Department has reached a settlement with dozens of conservative groups that claimed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) unfairly scrutinized them based on their political leanings when they sought a tax-exempt status, court documents showed.

In a pair of lawsuits filed in federal court in 2013, the conservative groups accused the IRS of targeting organizations with such words as "Tea Party" or "patriots" when they applied to the agency for tax-exempt status starting in 2010.

The sides asked the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday to issue a declarative judgment in one of the cases involving 41 plaintiffs that would say the IRS was wrong to apply the United States tax laws based on an entity's name, position or association with a particular political movement.

"We hope that today’s settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement on Thursday.

The IRS admitted it was wrong when it based screenings of the groups' applications on their names or policy positions, subjected the groups to heightened scrutiny, and delays and demanded unnecessary information from the groups, the agreement in the Washington case said.

The IRS "expresses its sincere apology," it said.

Senior management within the IRS's Exempt Organizations Division "was delinquent in its responsibility to provide effective control, guidance, and direction over the processing of applications for tax-exempt status filed by Tea Party and other political advocacy organizations," the settlement document said.

A request to halt the other case, a class action suit involving 428 members, was filed in a federal court in Ohio.

Republicans claimed the targeting of conservative groups showed political bias in the IRS under former Democratic President Barack Obama. House Republican investigators found no connection to the Obama administration, according to a 2014 report.

But the report did blame IRS officials for mistreating conservative organizations who sought tax-exempt status and that IRS officials covered up the misconduct and misled Congress.

The officials included former Commissioner Douglas Shulman, former acting Commissioner Steven Miller, and Lois Lerner, the former head of the unit overseeing applications for tax-exempt status.

Obama fired Mr. Miller after an internal 2013 IRS audit released found poor management – not partisan politics – led to an “inappropriate” focus on conservative groups.

No criminal charges were ever filed against IRS officials.

Groups seeking tax exemption under federal law may engage in limited amounts of political activity, depending on the type of exemption sought. That and the vagueness of the rules often make it difficult for IRS agents to tell which groups overstep and become ineligible for exemption.

This story was reported by Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to IRS apologizes for unfair treatment of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today