Opinion
              former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testifies  on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Tuesday, May 21, 2013, before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) practice of targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on political leanings. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The IRS didn’t just target conservative non-profits

Photo of Sen. Roy Blunt
Sen. Roy Blunt
U.S. Senator

According to reports, Douglas Shulman was cleared to visit the White House more than 100 times during his four years as President Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner. His Bush-era predecessor, Mark Everson, says he was cleared to visit the White House just once during his four years as IRS commissioner.

We don’t know the purpose of Shulman’s meetings or who he met with, but there was apparently much to discuss as the IRS blazed new trails targeting conservative organizations, pro-Israel charities, adoptive parents, and other groups that got to learn first-hand what former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller dubbed “customer service.”

One example recently highlighted by the media is the IRS’s targeting of the Leadership Institute, a 501(c)(3) that trains young conservative activists. The group’s president, Morton Blackwell, told my office the audit cost his organization more than $50,000 and hundreds of man-hours. As part of the investigation, the Leadership Institute was required to produce 23,430 pages of documents and answer far-ranging questions about its interns and other miscellaneous topics.

There are also claims that the IRS targeted pro-Israel groups as a result of their views — which do not coincide with the Obama administration’s views on Middle East policy. In a recent article, the Washington Free Beacon noted that it “has identified at least five pro-Israel organizations that have been audited by the IRS.” According to the article, “many of the charities openly clashed with the Obama administration’s policy.”

That a bureaucracy would go after organizations that disagree with the administration’s policies is disturbing. But it now appears the IRS has also targeted individuals whose only offense was becoming adoptive parents.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the IRS that Congress created in 1996 to keep an eye on IRS abuses, reports that 69 percent of the families that claimed the adoption tax credit for 2012 have been audited.

Are adoptive parents prone to committing fraud? No. The vast majority of the audited returns needed no adjustment. The Taxpayer Advocate Service, which is headed by Nina Olson, says that this clean-return rate is “among the highest [Olson] has ever seen.”

The fact that the IRS has defended so many audits for so puny a result “makes a mockery of effective tax administration” and “signals that the IRS continues to underestimate or ignore the true burden it placed on taxpayers who are legitimately claiming a tax benefit to which they are entitled and sorely need,” according to a report on the IRS’s targeting of adoptive parents from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, which, I remind you, is part of the IRS.

The non-partisan report also blasts the IRS for paying no attention to the intent of Congress in establishing the adoption credit, noting, “although the IRS states that it conducted extensive research about the credit, it clearly did not read or review either the congressional record laying out Congress’ focus on low and middle income families or its concerns about IRS unduly burdening credit applicants.”

More investigation is required to determine how deep this harassment runs — as well as how high within the ranks of the Obama administration the corruption goes. But even if the IRS was not acting under any orders from the White House, clearly the agency is in need of serious reform.