With the NSA wiretapping scandal dominating media, the IRS targeting scandal has taken a back seat. However, Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) is pursuing the issue with zeal.
According to Moran: two weeks before the scandal became public, he was questioning Treasury Secretary Jack Lew about the alleged targeting of conservative groups. Moran said that over the past year, the IRS has had a number of allegedly “inadvertent” releases of protected, confidential taxpayer information.
Most of these relate to the improper release of Schedule B of Form 990, which lists donors to nonprofit organizations. The IRS made these improper releases of information about nonprofit groups in response to information requests from other groups that subsequently used this information to attack the organizations and their donors.
Moran gave three particularly egregious examples:
– Last April, the IRS improperly disclosed the Schedule B donor list on the Form 990 of the National Organization for Marriage, a 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for traditional marriage between a man and a woman. While the Form 990 is publicly available, tax law and IRS regulations make clear that the Schedule B donor list of the 990 is not to be released for (c)(3)s and (c)(4)s.
– Last December, the IRS turned over to the group ProPublica several applications for non-profit status that included pending applications for tax-exempt status from a number of 501(c)(4)s . While applications for non-profit status are available to the public after an official exemption is granted, they are protected tax-return information while the application is pending.
A Moran staffer said this example is particularly damning, as it represents a felony:
“As we understand it, publishing unauthorized tax returns or return information is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Despite this, Pro Publica published information from these pending applications that it should never have received. Thus far, we have not been able to confirm that appropriate administrative or legal responses have been undertaken by the IRS and the Treasury.”
– Earlier this year, in another allegedly inadvertent disclosure, the IRS released to a group one page of the Schedule B showing donors to a 501 (c) (4) affiliated with the Republican Governors Association. Moran said that Lew told him at the hearing he had no idea about these allegations, but would get back to him with answers. To that end, Moran submitted a list of questions to Lew — these questions have yet to be answered. The scandal became public two weeks later.