| WASHINGTON, March 21
WASHINGTON, March 21 U.S. Internal Revenue
Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman assured lawmakers on
Wednesday that the agency is playing by the book in its
oversight of tax-exempt groups that spend money on liberal or
Democratic and Republican senators, in letters to Shulman
last week, raised concerns about the IRS' role as referee over
tax-exempt 501(c)4 groups.
Amid a boom in political spending this election year,
Democrats have asked the IRS for greater scrutiny of these
groups, while Republicans have questioned whether the IRS is
discriminating against certain ones.
Earlier this year, some Tea Party 501(c)4 groups received
IRS questionnaires asking about their qualifications for
"This notion that we are targeting anyone, I think, is off,"
Shulman said during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
A committee of three career IRS executives, who are not
based in Washington, look at 501(c)4s' tax filings to see if
audits are needed, Shulman said.
"Those career civil servants effectively serve as the filter
for information that's coming from outside sources" to the IRS
questioning a group's 501(c)4 status, said Ofer Lion, a counsel
with law firm Hunton and Williams LLP.
The committee serves to "deflect any later accusations ...
that the IRS is sort of playing politics with the organizations
that it does pursue," he said.
IRS policies have not been changed to single out any
Democratic or Republican 501(c)4 groups, Shulman said.
These organizations must promote "social welfare" to
maintain their tax exempt status. Their primary objectives
cannot be political. But the line is increasingly blurry.
Two major political 501(c)4 groups include Priorities USA,
which is backing President Barack Obama, and Crossroads GPS, a
conservative group co-founded by Karl Rove. Both groups also
have political action committee sister organizations.
The Republican presidential candidates have PACs supporting
them. These groups must publicly disclose their donors, unlike
(Reporting By Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh)