Tea Party Groups Question IRS Requests For Information

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Some Tea Party groups in Texas are buzzing over letters they’ve begun to receive from the Internal Revenue Service.

The groups applied for tax-exempt status –– in some cases as far back as three years ago –– but only this month received letters from the IRS demanding what many consider to be intrusive information.

And they say they’ve been given only days to provide it.

Ken Emanuelson has talked with his Tea Party peers across North Texas. They’ve received IRS letters similar to one sent to a Waco group, which demands reams of inside information in order to qualify for 501(c)(4) status –– a declaration necessary to be labeled as a nonprofit organization.

As a lawyer, he sees some questions as standard boilerplate language; others, he says, are intrusive.

“But if they’re starting to ask about who your volunteers are, what are your internal discussion about things, those don’t seem like they’re any of the IRS’s business,” he said. “Apparently it’s normal to get a few questions back from the IRS but they’re usually fairly cursory questions and most fellows I talked to said most of those can be handled over the phone. Normally, that there’s not this extensive submission of large chunks of paper.”

The letters also come with a prominent warning of penalties of perjury if the information is deliberately wrong. There is concern the Obama Administration is playing hardball in an election year.

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson disagrees.

“If they’d been in business for 20 years they would’ve gotten letters like this regularly over that period of time;  but the first time you get one it can be intimidating,” he said. “It’s their first rodeo and these horses are bigger and stronger and they buck harder than they’re used to.”

Jillson doubts the Tea Party is being treated differently from other politically active groups with the same status.

“But it is certainly the case that left-leaning organizations and right-leaning organizations should get the same treatment by the IRS and there’s no sense in this that they’re not,” he said. “It’s just that these are new Tea Party organizations.”

National media reports indicate Texas is one of four states where Tea Parties were sent IRS letters.

The agency could clear things up, but a spokesman said federal law prevents them from commenting.  Some groups are also suspicious of the timing and question why the IRS waited so long to demand information if they filed for an application two or three years ago.

Emanuelson has a possible theory.

“If you were trying to throw a monkey wrench into the Tea Party operation, sending them a bunch of letters right in the middle of the primary season would be one way to do it.”  He quickly adds, though, “but it just as easily could be a coincidence.”

Emanuelson says his Tea Party’s response will require hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents.

The deadline is Thursday and he’s not sure it’ll be ready in time.  He’s hoping for an extension, because he says his group is officially neutral.

“In the Dallas Tea Party we don’t coordinate with campaigns, we don’t endorse candidates, we work very hard to be even-handed,” he said. “Obviously, we’re in the political realm, but if we have a forum we make sure all the candidates are invited.”


One Comment

  1. LynnM says:

    Personally I think there are too many tax exempt groups !!! Including churches !

  2. james says:


    Personally, I don’t give a rats arse what you think…go to a nation where freedom of speech isn’t appreciated…I hear North Korea has a slot opened near the DMZ..

  3. altha says:

    The Tea Parties got to blame someone because they are the one trying to play HARD-BALL. Now it’s President Obama, Right now they are trying to come up with something to throw the election. They are trying to get one of those idiot in the White House. So they will say anything and do anything it doesn’t matter how wrong it is as long as they can do their dirt.

  4. its me says:

    The tea party is nothing but a bunch of people that have no idea what is actually happening in politics (outside of mass emails they receive that they never bother to verify the veracity of) that seem to think that even though they have no idea what they’re talking about their opinions matter. They’re just a blip, nothing to see here. 10 years from now you’ll never even read or hear of ‘the tea party”.

  5. nonya says:

    When do you think MoveOn, Media Matters and other sites are going to get served?

  6. Emily says:

    Those prominent penalty warnings are STANDARD. You are applying for a tax exemption. They want people, not just tea party affiliates, to know what the consequences of abusing the system are. As a taxpayer, I’m glad they are stringently looking to this.

  7. Wayne says:

    Either the author is uninformed or he purposely omitted the fact that eight Democratic Senator signed a letter and sent it to the IRS demanding this investigation. Now, it may be a coincidence as Professor jillson puts it, but I have been associated with four non profits for three decades and I have never had to submit anything but conflict statements, 1099s and our financial statement. If the federal government can be used BY EITHER SIDE as intimidation and go unchallenged, we have gone the way of history s failed cultures and sacrificed our own freedom.

  8. Wayne says:

    Senators Schumer, Franken, Udall, Shaheen, Whitehouse, Merkley and Bennet signed the letter.

Comments are closed.

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