Bill Would Increase Penalties for IRS Targeting, Including Jail Time

Rep. Mike Turner (R., Ohio) has proposed new penalties on IRS officials who target groups for their beliefs. (AP)

Rep. Michael Turner (R., Ohio) will introduce Monday legislation that would increase penalties on Internal Revenue Service officials who target groups on ideological grounds, including the possibility of prison time for offenders.

The increased penalties in Turner's bill match up with the current sanctions against administration officials who target organizations on ideological grounds, Politico reports:

"Across the country, people are appalled to learn the IRS targeted people because of their political beliefs," the Ohio Republican told Politico. "These are issues of basic rights of expression." […]

Turner’s bill would expressly prohibit an IRS employee from discriminating against a group or individual based on protected statuses. It also expressly states that political speech and expression are protected statuses and protect all political speech from being targeted by the IRS — not just that of conservative groups.

IRS employees are already prohibited from discriminating in the course of the work, but the highest level of punishment is termination. Under Turner’s law, the penalty would be increased to a fine up to $5,000, five years in prison or both.

The IRS trouble may be deeper than first realized, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend.

IRS official Lois Lerner, who acknowledged the targeting on Friday, was briefed in 2011 that officials who handle tax-exempt certification were singling out groups for further review based on certain criteria. Those internal red flags included the presence of "Tea Party" or "patriots" in a group's application, issues including government spending or tax policy, lobbying to "make America a better place to live," or statements that criticized how the government is being run.