In 2011, while working as a college English instructor and writing articles for this and other sites about corruption in education, I set up a website called Dissident Prof with my own funds and by working in my basement. After one of my long-time readers sent an unsolicited $500 donation, I decided to apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
Thus began the ordeal with the IRS. I suffered through fifteen months of stonewalling followed by demands to quickly meet a financial and ideological inquisition.
I am now a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against the IRS, because we now know the IRS had flagged applications based on criteria like this:
a) Have names including “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” or “9/12 Project”;
b) Deal with government spending, government debt, or taxes;
c) Deal with education of the public by advocacy or lobbying to “make America a better place to live”; or
d) Criticize how the country is being run.
The motto of my site — “resisting the re-education of America” — probably fit (c) and (d). This is likely why last week, Dissident Prof was exposed as #130 in the IRS’s list of 426 targeted groups.
(PJ Media reported that liberal targets had been added to that list, likely as a smokescreen.)
Dissident Prof was intended to be a forum for dissident professors to educate the public. The work of setting up the corporation — writing and filing paperwork — was exhausting, but none was more so than the IRS application.
To save on accounting fees, I did much of the legwork. I mailed the heavy envelope with my $850 fee to the IRS on February 8, 2013. The IRS cashed my check — but the three-month mark, by which we were told we could expect a response, passed.
Then the process became Kafkaesque — not American.
We called as instructed. We were told we were not assigned an agent yet. We were told we could not be told when we would be assigned an agent. We were told to call back. We did. We were sent a form saying there were problems with the application.
We asked what kinds of problems. We were told that we could not be told. They would assign us an agent. When would we be assigned an agent? The IRS woman impatiently said she did not know.
We waited, long past the three-month mark. And past our opportunity to hold a 2013 year-end fundraiser. I continued to post and speak, and I published three educational guidebooks.
But over a year passed. I called my senator’s office. After several correspondences, we were told we had been assigned an agent.
On May 16, 2014, our – ahem — Cincinnati-based agent sent an “Information Request” consisting of seven multi-part objections — with a two-and-a-half week deadline to respond. I was floored. She ended up granting us several extra days.
The IRS had three types of objections to our application: minor paperwork, a financial inquest, and ideological accusations.
The paperwork, involving a signature and a confusingly worded line on the application, could have been handled quickly by telephone.
The other categories were clearly intended to harass.
One amounted to an audit. An audit not on an existing organization, but on one still applying for status.
In the standard 501(c)(3) application, the IRS only asks for projected expenses, not exact amounts or names of vendors.
But now, still in the application process, we were asked to account — down to the penny — for such things as office supplies, honoraria to bloggers (ranging from $0 to $25), and professional fees. They wanted names of bloggers, contributors to guidebooks, and vendors — how much each was paid, for which project, and what purpose. They wanted percentages of “time and resources” spent on named activities.
We then faced an ideological inquisition on … Common Core. Remember, the IRS granted non-profit status to the multi-million dollar agency that wrote the Common Core standards, namely the Bill Gates-funded Achieve.
They asked us to describe:
… the percentage of your total [Common Core] expenditures and total time spent on these activities during each of your past taxable years.
They also wanted future estimates. Then, they demanded:
Submit representative copies of the materials you prepare or distribute in furtherance of these activities.
Another demand they made was laughably harassing considering the information they already:
For purposes of calculating the percentage of expenditures, allocate salaries, administrative, overhead, and other general expenditures to these activities using a reasonable method. For purposes of calculating the percentage of time, include volunteer as well as employee hours.
Remember, it was pretty much me in the basement. I described my one-woman efforts in a recent post.
We finally received approval on September 2014. They forced me to waste money and time when we should have been building on the momentum of our launch and fundraising. Other groups also lost opportunities, namely in 2012.
That’s how this IRS, this administration, works.