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editorial

In targeting conservative groups, IRS violated core principles

The Internal Revenue Service staffers who made special inquiries into the tax status of organizations whose names hinted at a conservative political agenda did something a government agency should never do: hassle private groups on the basis of their views. The tax agency has a unique power to reach into the financial affairs of private citizens and organizations, and even basic inquiries can mean endless anxiety and mountains of paperwork for the recipients. Especially because the agency’s leadership is politically appointed, the IRS must go out of its way to apply its far-reaching authority in a neutral manner.

That plainly did not happen when, beginning around 2010, IRS employees assessing groups’ eligibility for so-called 501(c)4 nonprofit status zeroed in on those whose names included such phrases as “Tea Party” and “patriots.” After being warned off that approach, the agency later focused on groups “involved in limiting/expanding Government” and in “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

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