We are currently reading through the just released 54 page report from the IRS' Acting Deputy Inspector General Michael McKenney, but for now here are the key excerpts from the findings section.
From Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review
The mission of the IRS is to provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all. According to IRS Policy Statement 1-1, IRS employees accomplish this mission by being impartial and handling tax matters in a manner that will promote public confidence. However, the criteria developed by the Determinations Unit gives the appearance that the IRS is not impartial in conducting its mission. The criteria focused narrowly on the names and policy positions of organizations instead of tax-exempt laws and Treasury Regulations. Criteria for selecting applications for the team of specialists should focus on the activities of the organizations and whether they fulfill the requirements of the law. Using the names or policy positions of organizations is not an appropriate basis for identifying applications for review by the team of specialists.
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The Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names. These applications (hereafter referred to as potential political cases) were forwarded to a team of specialists for review. Subsequently, the Determinations Unit expanded the criteria to inappropriately include organizations with other specific names (Patriots and 9/12) or policy positions. While the criteria used by the Determinations Unit specified particular organization names, the team of specialists was also processing applications from groups with names other than those identified in the criteria. The inappropriate and changing criteria may have led to inconsistent treatment of organizations applying for tax-exempt status. For example, we identified some organizations’ applications with evidence of significant political campaign intervention that were not forwarded to the team of specialists for processing but should have been. We also identified applications that were forwarded to the team of specialists but did not have indications of significant political campaign intervention. All applications that were forwarded to the team of specialists experienced substantial delays in processing. 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.
The Determinations Unit developed and began using criteria to identify potential political cases for review that inappropriately identified specific groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their names or policy positions instead of developing criteria based on tax-exempt laws and Treasury Regulations.
According to media reports, some organizations were classified as I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations but operated like political organizations. Soon thereafter, according to the IRS, a Determinations Unit specialist was asked to search for applications with Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in the organization’s name as well as other “political-sounding” names. EO function officials stated that, in May 2010, the Determinations Unit began developing a spreadsheet that would become known as the “Be On the Look Out” listing (hereafter referred to as the BOLO listing),15 which included the emerging issue of Tea Party applications. In June 2010, the Determinations Unit began training its specialists on issues to be aware of, including Tea Party cases. By July 2010, Determinations Unit management stated that it had requested its specialists to be on the lookout for Tea Party applications. In August 2010, the Determinations Unit distributed the first formal BOLO listing. The criteria in the BOLO listing were Tea Party organizations applying for I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) or I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) status. Based on our review of other BOLO listing criteria, the use of organization names on the BOLO listing is not unique to potential political cases.16 EO function officials stated that Determinations Unit specialists interpreted the general criteria in the BOLO listing and developed expanded criteria for identifying potential political cases.17 Figure 3 shows that, by June 2011, the expanded criteria included additional names (Patriots and 9/12 Project) as well as policy positions espoused by organizations in their applications.
Determinations Unit employees stated that they considered the Tea Party criterion as a shorthand term for all potential political cases. Whether the inappropriate criterion was shorthand for all potential political cases or not, developing and using criteria that focuses on organization names and policy positions instead of the activities permitted under the Treasury Regulations does not promote public confidence that tax-exempt laws are being adhered to impartially. In addition, the applications for those organizations that were identified for processing by the team of specialists experienced significant delays and requests for unnecessary information that is detailed later in this report.
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While the team of specialists reviewed applications from a variety of organizations, we determined during our reviews of statistical samples of I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) tax-exempt applications that all cases with Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in their names were forwarded to the team of specialists.
We determined this through two statistical samples of 338 (7.5 percent) from a universe of 4,510 I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) tax-exempt applications filed during May 2010 through May 2012 that were not forwarded to the team of specialists. See Appendix I for details on our sampling methodology.
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The team of specialists stopped working on potential political cases from October 2010 through November 2011, resulting in a 13-month delay, while they waited for assistance from the Technical Unit. Figure 5 illustrates significant events and delays concerning potential political cases. For a comprehensive timeline of events related to potential political cases, see Appendix VII.
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After receiving draft guidance in November 2011, the team of specialists began sending requests for additional information in January 2012 to organizations that were applying for tax-exempt status. For some organizations, this was the second letter received from the IRS requesting additional information, the first of which had been received more than a year before this date. These letters requested that the information be provided in two or three weeks (as is customary in these letters) despite the fact that the IRS had done nothing with some of the applications for more than one year. After the letters were received, organizations seeking tax-exempt status, as well as members of Congress, expressed concerns about the type and extent of questions being asked. For example, the Determinations Unit requested donor information from 27 organizations that it would be required to make public if the application was approved, even though this information could not be disclosed by the IRS when provided by organizations whose tax-exempt status had been approved. Figure 7 shows an example of requests sent to organizations applying for tax-exempt status regarding donors.
As part of this effort, EO function Headquarters office employees reviewed the additional information request letters prepared by the team of specialists and identified seven questions that they deemed unnecessary. Subsequently, the EO function instituted the practice that all additional information request letters for potential political cases be reviewed by the EO function Headquarters office before they are sent to organizations seeking tax-exempt status. In addition, EO function officials informed us that they decided to destroy all donor lists that were sent in for potential political cases that the IRS determined it should not have requested. Figure 8 lists the seven questions identified as being unnecessary.
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And so on.
Full report below