Re "501(c)(4)s are the real IRS scandal," Column, May 15
Michael Hiltzik is right. The IRS should put every tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization under a microscope. Vague tax rules, the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and the absurd cost of political campaigns create a perfect storm of opportunity for would-be kingmakers.
Being partisan myself, when I saw that key words being used to flag suspect organizations included "tea party" and "patriot," I thought, "Well, yes, and the problem is?" Of course these outfits are shielding major political donors.
Snag both sides. Tighten up and enforce the rules. Reform campaign spending laws. But let's not pretend that "tea party" and "patriot" outfits aren't engaged in campaign activity.
Political groups masquerading as "social welfare" organizations do so because of an IRS move more than 50 years ago.
It has been reported that in the 1950s, the IRS determined that an "exclusively" social welfare organization need only be "primarily" engaged in activities that actually promote social welfare. This is what has opened the doors to political organizations to hide behind the sobriquet of "social welfare."
The IRS should revert to enforcing the law as originally passed by Congress.
John I. Ingle
I'm unclear on what, if any, injury the groups who had their 501(c)(4) status reviewed suffered. I'm guessing not much.
I am a member of a charitable organization that filed for 501(c)(3) status. We were told that when our new nonprofit status is granted, it will be effective retroactive to our initial filing date. Organizations operating under 501(c)(4) status don't even have to apply; they can just self-declare. If those organizations that had their status reviewed didn't end up having to pay taxes, what did they suffer?
Hiltzik is right: Some of these groups masquerade as nonprofit social welfare organizations, and their donors are kept secret. That should be illegal.
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