This is the team on the hot-seat-of-the-week. They’re the ones praying for a devastating tornado, locust outbreak, politician meltdown or the return of Jesus. Anything to get them off the front page and out of the crawl.
It’s the IRS office accused of unfairly scrutinizing and delaying applications for tax-exempt status from conservative political organizations like the Tea Party.
I don’t think the low-level staffers in the Determinations Unit were politically motivated. I think they were trying to deal with a mountain of work while understaffed, so they searched for keywords to aggregate applications and handle similar groups with a degree of regularity.
We’ve seen for years the unit is understaffed and struggles to keep up:
— application responses routinely take close to a year and I’ve known groups that waited months longer than that
— an online application project was delayed, and I haven’t heard about it since
— the 2011 loss of tax exempt status for 275,000 charities meant many thousands would reapply, adding monumental burden
Much is being made of the unit’s requests for donor lists, but how a group is funded has long been part of the criteria for determining whether an organization qualifies for tax-exempt status.
I’m looking at an IRS letter from 2001 confirming a client’s exempt status. The agency informs the organization that if its “sources of support, or its character, method of operations, or purposes have changed” there may be a change in the exempt status.
I predict this scandal will lead from IRS Code section 501(c)(4) to 501(c)(13):
Cemetery companies owned and operated exclusively for the benefit of their members . . .
Then we’ll learn where the bodies are buried.
Updated June 6, 2013:
IRS released these FAQs on what the Determinations Unit did and why.