May 22, 2013

No, an increase in 501c4 applications is not an excuse for IRS targeting

Many Democrats on Congressional committees investigating the IRS discrimination against conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status have used an increase in these applications to excuse the discrimination itself. They suggest that applications "doubled" between 2009 and 2012, over the time the discrimination took place. Some go even further to suggest that the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case, decided January 2010, led immediately to the doubling of applications. They then ask if the resources allocated to the IRS to handle this "doubled" caseload was correspondingly increased.

This all seems like a reasonable argument, but for one minor detail. The IRS began targeting in March 2010. The cases "doubled" between 2010 and 2012, not 2009 and 2010. They only went up 30% the year after targeting began, and another 48% the year after that.

IRS officials would have had to be able to predict only two months after Citizens United that their caseload was going to increase significantly over the next three years in order for their actions to be even marginally excusable from an efficiency standpoint. But as the Treasury Inspector General has testified, even in that case, the specific targeting of certain types of groups is unacceptable.

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