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Sen. Hatch: IRS Must Preserve Privacy of Tax-Exempt Donations

Monday, 18 Jun 2012 05:21 PM

A group of Republican senators are calling on the IRS to preserve privacy protections for those donating to organizations applying for tax exempt status to protect them from “possible harassment and intimidation.”

Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and 10 other senators said that requesting donor information circumvented privacy protections and questioned the targeting of groups specifically seeking the approval or renewal of a tax-exempt designation under section 501(c)(4).

“Congress has made privacy the rule, and not the exception,” the senators wrote. “A list of donors who have given money to specific charitable organizations is something that carries great value to certain interested parties, as trading of personal information about private citizens has become common practice.

“Unfortunately, the public release of private donor information exposes citizens to possible harassment and intimidation by those who oppose the goals of the charitable organization.”

Under IRS rules, 501(c)(4) groups are organizations devoted to social-welfare activities but are also able to spend money in political races as long as their main activity is educational and social. Critics contend the groups are actually political committees that allow anonymous contributions to political activities.

Joining Hatch on the letter are senators Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., John Thune, R-S.D., and Rand Paul, R-Ky.

The letter was sent to IRS Commission Douglas Shulman and asked the IRS to respond to a number of questions including asking what is the “specific statutory authority giving the IRS authority to request actual donor names during reviews of applications for recognition of exemption under Section 501(c)(4)?”

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