The recently-exposed IRS campaign aimed at targeting conservative groups seeking tax exempt status has produced quite a bit of misinformation. The Washington Post recently published an article on their website dedicated to sifting through some of the common misconceptions connected to the scandal. We’ve recapped the information below.
Myth #1: The targeting campaign was instituted to deal with a mass influx of applications.
In response to accusations of specifically targeting conservative groups, the IRS has stated that their targeting campaign originated to deal with a sharp rise in the number of tax-exemption applications. Democrats have advanced this idea as a way to defend IRS actions. However, the targeting campaign began sometime before mid-year 2010. An inspector-general’s report issued in response to the scandal shows that the number of 501(c)4 applications targeted actually dropped in 2010. During 2011, the number of 501(c)4 applications increased. But by this point, the targeting campaign was well under way.
Myth #2: The IRS will play a key role in the new healthcare legislation.
Republicans eager to add weight to their calls to repeal the new healthcare legislation have used this scandal to cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the IRS in its role in administering the new healthcare law. The IRS will play a significant role in enforcing the insurance mandate as well as in administering credits for those who can’t pay for insurance under the new system. However, they won’t have access to the “most personal, sensitive, intimate, private health-care information” as claimed by Rep. Michelle Bachmann. This statement earned her a four pinocchio rating from Fact Checker.
Myth #3: The targeted terms used in the campaign netted more than just tea party groups.
Former IRS commissioner Steven Miller noted that only 70 of the more than 300 groups targeted by the IRS claimed a connection to the tea party. This is true, but the search terms used to target these groups included those specific to conservative groups such as “tea party,” “patriot,” and “9/12.” There is no indication that terms specific to left leaning organizations were ever employed.
Myth #4: The Bush administration did the same thing.
During congressional hearings, Democratic Rep. John Lewis noted that the Bush administration conducted similar targeting of left leaning groups that included groups such as the NAACP, an environmental group, and a church. These groups did receive scrutiny during the Bush years, but all of them already held tax exempt status. They were all audited due to allegations that they had abused their tax-exempt status. All were cleared after being subjected to IRS auditing. Unlike the groups in question in the current scandal, none of these entities were targeted simply based on their name.
As the tax scandal continues to unfold, additional information will become available. In cases like this it is inevitable that spin will come from both sides. We’ll keep you updated with facts about what took place and what’s being done to prevent it in the future.