IRS Approval for Many Conservative Groups Still Stalled

Sunday, 24 Nov 2013 08:03 AM

By Audrey Hudson

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It's business as usual at the Internal Revenue Service, where officials tell USA Today
that little has changed since Congress investigated the agency for targeting tea party groups for unnecessary delays.

Forty percent of the conservative groups caught up in the backlog remain in limbo, and new applications pending since May 2012 have not been considered.

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The Cincinnati office that handles tax-exempt status groups still faces a backlog, however some officials believe there has been a change in culture and the process improved since division director Lois Lerner and IRS Commissioner Steven Miller resigned.

"I'm quite sure they're not going to go after tea party groups again," said Paul Streckfus, editor of a trade journal focused on tax-exempt issues.

"The larger question is, is the system working better than it did? And the answer, as far as I can tell, is it's not," Streckfus said.

Congress began investigating the agency six months ago after it was revealed that 500 conservative and tea party groups waited years for approval, while some presented evidence that federal authorities demanded private and intrusive information about the groups.

Danny Werfel, the new IRS chief, has since banned the "Be on the Look Out," or BOLO lists of certain words like "patriot" or "tea party" that were used to target right-leaning groups.

Marcus Owens, a Washington-based tax attorney and former director of the IRS' exempt organizations division, said applications "don't seem to be moving at all."

"The IRS just isn't saying anything to the public or even giving guidance to professionals in the tax field," Owens said.

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