Report Says IRS Approved Tax-Exempt Status For Twice as Many Conservative Groups as Liberal Groups

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Here’s an interesting tidbit from the newsletter Tax Notes. As we all know by now, the IRS applies extra scrutiny to a group applying for tax-exempt status if it suspects the group is political in nature. In 2010, they decided that having “tea party” in a group’s name was sufficient to raise a red flag.

The Inspector General’s report about this included an audit of 298 groups that had been given special scrutiny. Of these, 96 had “tea party,” “patriots,” or “9-12 project” in their names. But that’s all we know. We have no idea how many of the 298 groups were liberal and how many were conservative, because the IRS doesn’t release the name of groups that have applied for tax-exempt status.

However, the IRS does publish the names of groups that have received special scrutiny and been approved for tax-exempt status. They recently released a list of 176 organizations that have been approved since 2010, so Martin Sullivan checked each one to figure out if it was liberal or conservative. Here’s what he found:

  • 122 conservative
  • 48 liberal/nonconservative
  • 6 unknown

This doesn’t tell us anything definitive about the entire set of groups that got special scrutiny. If the whole set is similar to the approved set, then about two-thirds were conservative and one-third liberal—most likely because of the boom in new tea party groups in 2010. But that’s just a guess.

One thing isn’t a guess, however: Two-thirds of the groups who were approved for tax-exempt status were conservative. If the IRS was on a partisan witch hunt against conservative groups, that’s sure an odd way of showing it, isn’t it?

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