Outrage: IRS Targets Tea Party Organizations

By Perry Chiaramonte
Fox News

  • Tea Party Express in Searchlight

Tea  Party chapters around the nation are blasting the Internal  Revenue Service after the federal agency sent them letters demanding  information about their politics, contributors and even family members.

In letters sent from IRS offices in Cincinnati  earlier this month, chapters including the Waco (Texas) Tea Party and the Ohio  Liberty Council were asked to provide a list of donors, identify volunteers,  financial support for and relationships with political candidates and parties,  and even printed copies of their Facebook  pages.

“Some of what they (the IRS) asked was reasonable,  but there were some requests on there that were strange,” Toby Marie Walker,  president of the Waco Tea Party told FoxNews.com. “It makes you wonder if they  do this to groups like ACORN or other left-leaning groups.”

Read  the complete letter sent to the Waco Tea Party by the IRS

The chapters that received requests were registering  for nonprofit status as a 501(c)4 organizations. The classification mainly  differs from 501(c)3 groups in that donors cannot deduct their contributions  from their taxable income.

The tax code places fewer restrictions on 501(c)4  groups, allowing them to lobby in furtherance of their organizations’ mission.  They are also permitted to engage in political activity like endorsing  candidates and donating money and time to specific campaigns, though it cannot  be their primary activity.

The more tightly controlled, but more heavily  subsidized 501(c)3 groups may not participate in specific campaigns at all.

Tea Party leaders say they were particularly  offended by demands that they name donors and volunteers, which is required by  law, but were also asked to list any political ambitions of board members or  their relatives.

Colleen Owens, spokeswoman for the Richmond (Va.)  Tea Party claims that her chapter had a similar letter sent to them just two  weeks before they were to hold a local convention in which they were asked to  provide nearly 500 pages in documents.

They were required to return the requested documents  two days before the start of the convention.

“Most of these groups are not wealthy and they’ve  had their applications for 501(c)4 status since 2010,” Owens said. “We only had  two weeks to gather everything. The timing was suspicious.”

“When determining whether an organization is  eligible for tax-exempt status, including 501(c)(4) social welfare  organizations, all the facts and circumstances of that specific organization  must be considered to determine whether it is eligible for tax-exempt  status.  To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization, they must be  primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare,” said a spokesman for the  IRS.

“Career civil servants make all decisions on  exemption applications in a fair, impartial manner and do so without regard  to political party affiliation or ideology.”

Experts contacted by FoxNews.com agreed the timing  of the letters was problematic, though the information requests are not  particularly sinister.

“These are standard inquiries,” said Ellen Aprill, a  professor who teaches tax law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “If they (the  Tea Party chapters) do nothing but campaign intervention, then they have to file  as a 527 organization.”

But Tom Zawistowski, of the Ohio Liberty Council, a  Tea Party chapter, called questions about donors, volunteers and members’  relatives “intelligence gathering.”

“This has nothing to do with tax status,”  Zawistowski said. “It has to do with political affiliation. The questions are  too close to home.”

“It’s very intimidating and people are scared,”  Owens said

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/02/28/numerous-tea-party-chapters-claim-irs-attempting-to-sabotage-non-profit-status/?test=latestnews#ixzz1nl8KdbJM.

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