Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Views on the 501(c)(4) Mess - Part I (selected Commentary & OpEds)

Others have done a great job of reporting the numerous news stories covering the 501(c)(4) exemption application mess at the IRS (see especially TaxProf Blog, which has been providing a daily "IRS Scandal" update).  So here I want to focus on commentary and opeds written by a number of thoughtful exempt organizations academics and practitioners:

  • Ellen P. Aprill, IRS and Scrutiny: Reviewing Review, Roll Call (5/23/13):  "Some media reports, however, imply that the IRS cannot and should not ask any questions of applicants for exemption, that any inquiry invades privacy and violates the First Amendment. That implication is wrong. An organization that seeks an IRS acknowledgment of its exempt status subjects itself to scrutiny — scrutiny designed to ensure that the group in fact qualifies for the benefit of tax exemption."  See also Ellen Aprill, The TIGTA Report on the IRS Scandal: Questions About the IRS and About the Report, TaxProf Blog (5/15/13).
  • Gary D. Bass & Elizabeth J. Kingsley, Nonprofits Need Better Guidance on Tax-Exempt Standards, Washington Post (5/23/13):  "But we must not lose sight of the underlying problems that led to this situation: the lack of workable standards to determine what activity the Internal Revenue Service considers 'political' and how much of it a nonprofit group can do. . . . Much of this problem could be addressed by adopting objective, substantive criteria to define political intervention for nonprofit organizations."
  • Roger Colinvaux, IRS Scandal Is About Donors, Not Tax, CNN (5/17/13):  "Obviously, mistakes were made in how the IRS examined the groups, but what should not get lost amid the resulting hue and cry is that this is fundamentally about disclosure of donors, not tax-exempt status."
  • Phillip Hackney, The TIGTA Report on the IRS Scandal: Be on the Lookout for False Partisan Witchunts, TaxProf Blog (5/15/13): "Nevertheless, other than the disclosure problems, this TIGTA review gives an accurate picture of an organization that I came to know and love when I worked there.  Good people trying to do good work, but set for failure because provided poor clay in the Internal Revenue Code provisions on exempt organizations and too little staff and money to carry out the twin aims of accuracy and speed in molding that poor clay into a consistent good product."
  • John Pomeranz, On the IRS Fiasco, Election Law Blog (5/11/13):  "Looking beyond the immediate scandal, I believe that part of the reason it was possible for the IRS to treat these groups this way was the failure of Congress, the Treasury Department, and the IRS to adequately define what and how much political activity is permitted for tax-exempt organizations."

LHM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2013/05/ideas-for-fixing-the-501c4-mess-part-i-selected-opeds.html

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