IG: IRS Targeted 100% With 'Tea Party' in Name; 30% With 'Progress' or 'Progressive'

By Susan Jones | June 27, 2013 | 10:52am EDT

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George testifies before a House Appropriations subcommittee on Monday, June 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - There's no evidence that the Internal Revenue Service used the term “progressives” in the same way it used "tea party" to scrutinize groups applying for tax-exempt status, says the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

In response to questions from Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George clarified in a June 26 letter:

"Our audit did not find evidence that the IRS used the "Progressives" identifier as selection criteria for potential political cases between May 2010 and May 2012. The focus of our audit was on whether the IRS:  1) targeted specific groups applying for tax-exempt status, 2) delayed processing of targeted groups' applications, and 3) requested unnecessary information from targeted groups. We determined the IRS developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names."

The letter to Levin, who is ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, came one day after the IRS provided congressional investigators with new information showing that the term "progressives" was included on IRS' "Be On the Lookout" (BOLO) lists, which were used to screen groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Rep. Levin  wrote to Treasury Inspector General George earlier this week, asking him to explain why the information about "progressives" was omitted in congressional hearings. "This new information shows that the foundation of those investigations is flawed in a fundamental way,” Rep. Levin said.

But in response to Levin's queries, George responded on Wednesday that the term "progressives" appeared in a section of the BOLO  spreadsheet labeled "Historical," and, unlike other BOLO entries, did not include instructions on how to handle cases that met the "progressive" criteria.

George indicated that numbers tell the story:

"Based on the information you flagged regarding the existence of a 'Progressives' entry on BOLO lists, TIGTA performed additional research which determined that six tax-exempt applications filed between May 2010 and May 2012 having the words "progress" or "progressive" in their names were included in the 298 cases the IRS identified as potential political cases.  We also determined that 14 tax-exempt applications filed between May 2010 and May 2012 using the words "progress" or "progressive" in their names were not referred for added scrutiny as potential political cases.  In total, 30 percent of the organizations we identified with the words "progress" or "progressive" in their names were processed as potential political cases.  

"In comparison, our audit found that 100 percent of the tax-exempt applications with Tea Party,  Patriots, or 9/12 in their names were processed as potential political cases during the timeframe of our audit."

The IRS has admitted that between May 2010 and May 2012, certain conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were inappropriately subjected to  heightened scrutiny, which delayed approvals for months, and sometimes, years.

"At this point, the evidence shows us that conservative groups were not only flagged, but targeted and abused by the IRS," said Sarah Swinehart, spokeswoman for the House Ways and Means Committee. "As we gather the facts, we will follow them wherever they lead us."

Swinehart said Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) encourages all groups, regardless of political affiliation, to come forward and share their story if they believe they have been targeted by the IRS.

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