If I write a blog about a Federal agency responsible for collection of revenues levied by the government, will I be subject to audit? If you noticed, I avoided use of a three-letter acronym for a Federal agency charged with performing the task for our national government. That agency has come under fire since reports Friday disclosed the agency targeted any 501(c)(4) groups with the words "patriot" or "tea party" in their names, or advocated education about the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Because the agency in question is part of the Executive Branch, the Obama Administration has come under similar fire.
501(c) is a provision of the Internal Revenue Code---cat out of the bag, here; the agency in question is the IRS---that allows not-for-profit entities for categories of purposes. 501(c)(4) provides tax-exempt status for:
"(A) Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality, and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.
"(B) Subparagraph A shall not apply to an entity unless no part of the net earnings of such entity inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual."
501(h) provides exemption under 501 where "a substantial part of the activities of such organization consists of carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation, but only if such organization normally---(A) makes lobbying expenditures in excess of the lobbying ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year, or (B) makes grass roots expenditures in excess of the grass roots ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year."
The ostensible reason for the heightened attention to these groups was abuses of the tax status.
I think that part is fine. If there is abuse of the system---i.e., violation of the law---then detection of such abuse and action to stop that abuse are part of the job of the executive branch.
The problem is that the IRS appears to have targeted specific groups based on beliefs. That is a very big problem. That is a violation of some of our core beliefs. People should not, and supposedly cannot, be targeted because of the First Amendment (free speech, association) and the Fourteenth Amendment (due process and equal protection of the laws).
If the names of 501(c)(4) organizations had been written on slips of paper and those slips of paper drawn from a hat for random audits, that probably would have been fine. To select organizations based on beliefs is wrong. There is always the problem of the belief itself, if that belief is that taxation is tyranny, and people should try to dodge taxes whenever possible. One reasonably could infer that a 501(c)(4) organization propounding such beliefs might skirt Federal law.
Then again, we speak of corporations here. Corporations should not have "rights" under the Constitution, but that boat sailed when Citizens United was handed down.
I avoided use of the three-letter acronym because I am paranoid about government computers that monitor blogs of people who criticize the government. That was another one of the parameters of the recent tax agency's efforts reveled on Friday.
So let me close by saying: I love Big Brother.
This Saturday's Show will be fun. I am sure we shall discuss this topic.
groups , and the has come under fire