IRS-targeted groups cry foul after playing GOP politics

by - June 05, 2013

Their activities might not have run afoul of the rules. But for the murky world of charitable exemptions now under heightened political scrutiny, their backgrounds underscore the gray area the IRS was in as it posed questions to the groups. “Certainly, one of the IRS’s responsibilities is to wring out the ambiguity as much as possible in order to ascertain what the organization is going to do, and then make not necessarily the easy call of whether the political activity is less than a primary activity,” said Marcus Owens, the head of the IRS’s exempt organizations division from 1990 to 2000. The IRS is in a bind when it comes to the regulation of nonprofit groups. Agency regulation prohibits nonprofits from primarily engaging in political activity but offers no public guidance to judge what unacceptable behavior means.

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