While IRS officials attributed the agency’s heavy scrutiny on conservative groups to the spike in applications over the past few years, fresh reports and figures are raising questions about whether the agency knowingly applied a double standard.
A highly anticipated watchdog report, released late Tuesday by the inspector general’s office, depicted an even bigger spike in applications for tax-exempt status from a type of group that includes labor organizations. Yet, according to the report, the conservative groups were the ones singled out for special treatment.
This special treatment included the agency creating a unique “be on the lookout” list. The list covered “political-sounding” names like Tea Party, Patriots, and 9/12. The criteria, labeled by the report as “inappropriate,” later expanded to include groups focused on government spending, government debt, taxes and other areas.
The IRS has explained that low-level staffers at an Ohio office were effectively scrambling to deal with an influx in applications from these groups, for tax-exempt status known in the IRS code as 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4).