Allison R. Hayward
Two years ago, Lois Lerner of the IRS revealed that it unfairly targeted and delayed Tea Party applications for tax exemption. While the IRS has apologized and promised reform, the agency has not fixed the vague rules that allowed this scandal to happen. As we enter the 2016 election cycle, political activists remain in danger of selective IRS audits, penalties and approvals.
As troubling as this is, we have seen this before. The tax regulation of non-profit advocacy groups has not had a happy history. One pattern repeats: Congress passes a tax law, often to score short-term political points. The IRS then interprets the law aggressively, often against groups with controversial views. Federal courts may soften that blow case by case. Eventually, Congress passes another law and this cycle starts again.