IRS targeted conservative donors for audit

Judicial Watch has gotten its hands on some dynamite: emails showing that the IRS deliberately targeted donors to conservative groups for audits.

The paper trail is pretty clear.  The way it worked was that the IRS would compare lists of donors to 501(c)(4) organizations with a list of those who filed Gift Tax returns.  Some of those donors who did not file a gift tax return were audited.

The significance here is that the IRS had not enforced the rule on gift taxes when the donation was to a political organization since 1982.

letter dated September 28, 2010, then-Democrat Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) informs then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman: “   I request that you and your agency survey major 501(c)(4), (c)(5) and (c)(6) organizations …”  In reply, in a letter dated February 17, 2011, Shulman writes: “In the work plan of the Exempt Organizations Division, we announced that beginning in FY2011, we are increasing our focus on section 501(c)(4), (5) and (6) organizations.”

In 2010, after receiving Baucus’s letter, the IRS considered the issue of auditing donors to 501(c)(4) organizations, alleging that a 35 percent gift tax would be due on donations in excess of $13,000.  The documents show that the IRS wanted to cross-check donor lists from 501(c)(4) organizations against gift tax filings and commence audits against taxpayers based on this information.

A gift tax on contributions to 501(c)(4)’s was considered by most to be a dead letter since the IRS had never enforced the rule after the Supreme Court ruled that such taxes violated the First Amendment.  The documents show that the IRS had not enforced the gift tax since 1982.

But then, in February 2011, at least five donors of an unnamed organization were audited.

The documents show that Crossroads GPS, associated with Republican Karl Rove, was specifically referenced by IRS officials in the context of applying the gift tax.  Seemingly in response to the Crossroads focus, on April 20, IRS attorney Lorraine Gardner emails a 501(c)(4) donor list to former Branch Chief in the IRS’ Office of the Chief Counsel James Hogan. Later, this information is apparently shared with IRS Estate Gift and Policy Manager Lisa Piehl while Gardner seeks “information about any of the donors.”

Emails to and from Lorraine Gardner also suggested bias against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  An IRS official (whose name is redacted) emails Gardner on May 13, 2011, a blog post responding to the IRS targeting of political and other activities of 501(c)(4), (5) and (6) organizations:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(6) organization and may find itself under high scrutiny.  One can only hope

Such pleasant people. 

Lois Lerner defended the audits:

Lerner acknowledges that “the courts have said specifically that contributions to 527 political organizations are not subject to the gift tax–nothing that I’m aware of that about contributions to organizations that are not political organizations.” Section 501(c)(4) organizations are not “political organizations.”  [Emphasis in original]

Lerner’s involvement and support for the new gift tax contradicts the IRS statement to the media at the time that audits were not part of a “broader effort looking at donations 501(c)(4)’s.”  In July 2011, the IRS retreated and soon-to-be Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller directed that “examination resources should not be expended on this issue” and that all audits of taxpayers “relating to the application of gift taxes” to 501(c)(4) organizations “should be closed.”

This is incredible.  It means that the administration used the IRS to hit at the very heart of conservative political activism – donors. A campaign of intimidation was gleefully undertaken.  Again, no mention was made of any liberal donors who got audited. 

Just this week, the president said the IRS scandal didn't exist.  And as long as the media refuses to contradict him, it doesn't.

Judicial Watch has gotten its hands on some dynamite: emails showing that the IRS deliberately targeted donors to conservative groups for audits.

The paper trail is pretty clear.  The way it worked was that the IRS would compare lists of donors to 501(c)(4) organizations with a list of those who filed Gift Tax returns.  Some of those donors who did not file a gift tax return were audited.

The significance here is that the IRS had not enforced the rule on gift taxes when the donation was to a political organization since 1982.

letter dated September 28, 2010, then-Democrat Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) informs then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman: “   I request that you and your agency survey major 501(c)(4), (c)(5) and (c)(6) organizations …”  In reply, in a letter dated February 17, 2011, Shulman writes: “In the work plan of the Exempt Organizations Division, we announced that beginning in FY2011, we are increasing our focus on section 501(c)(4), (5) and (6) organizations.”

In 2010, after receiving Baucus’s letter, the IRS considered the issue of auditing donors to 501(c)(4) organizations, alleging that a 35 percent gift tax would be due on donations in excess of $13,000.  The documents show that the IRS wanted to cross-check donor lists from 501(c)(4) organizations against gift tax filings and commence audits against taxpayers based on this information.

A gift tax on contributions to 501(c)(4)’s was considered by most to be a dead letter since the IRS had never enforced the rule after the Supreme Court ruled that such taxes violated the First Amendment.  The documents show that the IRS had not enforced the gift tax since 1982.

But then, in February 2011, at least five donors of an unnamed organization were audited.

The documents show that Crossroads GPS, associated with Republican Karl Rove, was specifically referenced by IRS officials in the context of applying the gift tax.  Seemingly in response to the Crossroads focus, on April 20, IRS attorney Lorraine Gardner emails a 501(c)(4) donor list to former Branch Chief in the IRS’ Office of the Chief Counsel James Hogan. Later, this information is apparently shared with IRS Estate Gift and Policy Manager Lisa Piehl while Gardner seeks “information about any of the donors.”

Emails to and from Lorraine Gardner also suggested bias against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  An IRS official (whose name is redacted) emails Gardner on May 13, 2011, a blog post responding to the IRS targeting of political and other activities of 501(c)(4), (5) and (6) organizations:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(6) organization and may find itself under high scrutiny.  One can only hope

Such pleasant people. 

Lois Lerner defended the audits:

Lerner acknowledges that “the courts have said specifically that contributions to 527 political organizations are not subject to the gift tax–nothing that I’m aware of that about contributions to organizations that are not political organizations.” Section 501(c)(4) organizations are not “political organizations.”  [Emphasis in original]

Lerner’s involvement and support for the new gift tax contradicts the IRS statement to the media at the time that audits were not part of a “broader effort looking at donations 501(c)(4)’s.”  In July 2011, the IRS retreated and soon-to-be Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller directed that “examination resources should not be expended on this issue” and that all audits of taxpayers “relating to the application of gift taxes” to 501(c)(4) organizations “should be closed.”

This is incredible.  It means that the administration used the IRS to hit at the very heart of conservative political activism – donors. A campaign of intimidation was gleefully undertaken.  Again, no mention was made of any liberal donors who got audited. 

Just this week, the president said the IRS scandal didn't exist.  And as long as the media refuses to contradict him, it doesn't.