Report: IRS scrutiny more about process than politics

July 5, 2013 at 12:11 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 5 (UPI) -- An examination of Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of U.S. organizations seeking tax exempt status indicates the IRS' focus was more on process than ideology.

The New York Times reported the IRS contacted organizations based on specific "be on the lookout" list warnings, such as advocates for people in "occupied territories" and "open source software developers."

The groups told similar stories of long waits, pushy inquiries and bureaucratic red tape that didn't point to a particular bias but to a process that was too rigid and too broad, the newspaper reported Thursday.

The "lookout" lists also pointed to legitimate concerns such as partisan political organizations seeking tax-exempt status or commercial businesses hoping to disguise themselves as non-profits, the Times said.

Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel last month ended the BOLO lists upon learning they were still used, after a controversy arose over whether conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status were unfairly targeted for scrutiny.

Two months of investigation by Congress and the IRS produced documents that muddied much of the controversy, the Times said. The new information indicates many organizations other than conservative groups were singled out, including progressive organizations, medical marijuana sellers, organizations formed to carry out President Barack Obama's healthcare law, and open-source software developers, the Times said.

"As soon as you say the words 'open source,' like other organizations that use 'Tea Party' or 'Occupy,' it gets you red-flagged," said Luis Villa, a lawyer and a member of the board of directors of the Open Source Initiative, an organization dedicated to promoting open-source software.

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