The IRS admitted to flagging conservative political groups who submitted applications for tax-exempt status with keywords like “tea party” and “patriot” during the 2012 election. The applications were delayed for additional review to determine the validity of their tax-exempt claims.
Applicants were asked lengthy and sometimes intrusive questions about social media usage and family members. Some were even asked for a list of donors, which violates IRS policy.
Other requests included identifying volunteers, relationships with political candidates and printed copies of their Facebook pages.
When many conservatives complained during the 2012 election, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told congress that IRS was not targeting select groups.
“This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, he said.
Lois Lerner, head of IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, stated today that low-level workers in a Cincinnati office had indeed singled out conservative groups. The lengthy reviews were intended to ensure that charitable groups were not conducting political activities as their primary function, and had no political bias, according to Lerner.
“That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate.” Lerner said. “The IRS would like to apologize for that.”