One charge to the IRS is to screen applications by groups for a special tax-exempt status coupled with donor anonymity. This is done within the IRS by civil servants working with lawyers who interpret the murky laws on criteria for this special tax exempt status. Working under 30 years of budget cuts and outdated computing systems, the staff process thousands of applications in a year. After the Supreme Court rendered its gutting of political finance regulations in a case known as Citizens United, the number of applications for tax exemptions and donor anonymity soared.
Those of us familiar with database management, a large part of application processing, recognize a sorting method as the culprit in the description of what the Tea Party and Republicans are calling “targeting.” If you wish to compare applications for consistency or even for sourcing, you sort by a name. To screen applications for this special category, you may wish to make sure you are consistent.
To be awarded the tax-exempt status for a 501(c)3, one must be engaged in a charity operation; for a 501(c)4, a social welfare operation. The job of the IRS is to determine just what those operations consist of. There is no specific definition of what constitutes charity or social welfare.
Since the Republican Tea Party has never exhibited any concern for the poor, sick or handicapped sector of our nation, it is not surprising that the sudden tender attention to the 47 percent, expressed in thousands of applications for special tax status, struck some as worth examination. It is the job of the IRS to prevent fraudulent claims and it seems to have done its job in some respects, but I would contend they allowed patently unallowable claims of purpose to slide by.
The real outrage is not the few groups that were questioned, but the thousands that slithered through. Enough of the faux outrage.
HARRIET H. YOUNG
Mary 23, 2013