Then-Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service Doug Shulman asserted in March 2012 that there was "absolutely no targeting" by the IRS of tax-exempt conservative organizations while testifying before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight.
The IRS apologized Friday for what it called “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their name during the 2012 election to allegedly see if they were violating tax-exempt status, but a Wall Street Journal article Monday reported it purposely scrutinized ones worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and those that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.
The report also stated the investigation revealed that a high-ranking IRS official knew as early as mid-2011 that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted—nearly a year before Shulman told a congressional committee the agency was doing no such thing:
REP. CHARLES BOUSTANY: One other question. It's come to my attention, I've gotten a number of letters, we've seen some recent press allegations that the IRS is targeting certain Tea Party groups cross the country — requesting owners' documents requests, delaying approval for tax-exempt status and that kind of thing. Can you elaborate on what's going on with that? Can you give us assurances that the IRS is not targeting particular groups based on political leanings?
DOUG SHULMAN: Thanks for bringing this up because I think there's been a lot of press about this and a lot of moving information, so I appreciate the opportunity to clarify. First, let me start by saying, yes, I can give you assurances. As you know, we pride ourselves on being a non-political, non-partisan organization. I am the only — me and our chief counsel — are the only presidential appointees, and I have a five-year term that runs through presidential elections, just so we will have none of that kind of political intervention in things that we do. For 501 (c)(4) organizations, which is what's been in the press, organizations do not need to apply for tax exemption. Organizations can actually hold themselves out as 501 (c)(4) organizations and then file a 990 with us. The organizations that have been in the press are all ones that are in the application process. First of all, I think it's very important to emphasize that all of these organizations came in voluntarily. They did not need to engage the IRS in a back-and-forth. They could have held themselves out, filed a 990, and if we had seen an issue, we would have engaged but otherwise we wouldn't. The basic rules around 501 (c)(4) organizations are that they need to be primarily engaged in promoting the common good and general welfare of their community. They can be involved in political and campaign activity, but it can't be their primary purpose. When people apply for 501 (c)(4) status, what we do is engage them in a number of questions about making sure that we understand their primary purpose around this and other sorts of engagement. And so what's been happening has been the normal back-and-forth that happens with the IRS. None of the alleged taxpayers– and obviously I can't talk about individual taxpayers and I'm not involved in these — are in an examination process. They're in an application process which they moved into voluntarily. There is absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back-and-forth that happens when people apply for 501 (c)(4) status.