Conservatives have been seething since 2013 over what they say was an unfair effort by the IRS to scrutinize right-leaning organizations more closely than other groups seeking nonprofit status.
As a report from the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration released in 2017 shows, the IRS did flag some conservative groups. But it also paid the same kind of extra attention to liberal organizations with words like “occupy” and “progressive” in their names between 2004 and 2013.
Those findings should have settled the question. While there was extra scrutiny, there was no liberal bias among the federal employees who determine whether new organizations that want to operate as nonprofits are legitimate — and therefore eligible for the tax-exempt status that goes with that designation. Rather than moving on, the Trump administration moved to make amends with the conservatives who believed they were wronged by partisan bureaucrats.
As a former IRS lawyer who now researches nonprofit regulation, I was relieved to see the claim that the government exclusively targeted conservative organizations officially debunked. I believe this report ought to have ushered in a serious discussion about a real problem: The IRS is too cash-strapped to conduct oversight of nonprofits of all kinds. And the tax agency remains severely underfunded, even after some modest budget boosts to implement the new 2017 tax law.
A false narrative