IRS slow-walks tax-exempt status for Wyoming conservative think tank

Font Size:

The Wyoming Policy Institute received its first letter requesting additional information about its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt application from the Internal Revenue Service last week — after a year-and-a-half of waiting.

Janie White, the Wyoming Policy Institute’s executive director and self-described tea party member since 2009, believes that her Wyoming think tank has been the subject of IRS slow-walking and targeting.

White and some of her friends started the Wyoming Policy Institute, and sent in an application for 501(c)(3) status in November of 2011.

“Our application, I thought, was pretty extensive,” White told The Daily Caller in an interview.

White noted, however, that the organization’s mission statement includes some of the buzz words IRS officials were on the look out for beginning in January of 2012, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s recently released report on conservative targeting.

“The Wyoming Policy Institute is an educational organization that analyzes policies from the federal, state and local levels and educates the public on how those policies can affect free market principles; government fiscal responsibility; a limited transparent accountable government; strong families and individual responsibility,” the group’s mission statement reads. “We advance and defend traditional American liberty and heritage.”

In May of 2012, White explained that she received a letter notifying her that the Wyoming Policy Institute’s application has been assigned to an IRS employee. White then began to attempt a friendly relationship with the IRS official handling her group’s case.

“I immediately start calling this woman, asking, ‘So, how’s it going? Are there any questions? How long do you think it is going to take?’ She’s been very sweet, she really has,” White said of the IRS employee handling her case, Faye Ng, a Cincinnati IRS employee named Monday in another conservative organization’s lawsuit against the IRS.

White’s paperwork however has been addressed from an IRS P.O. Box in Covington, Ky.

When White had waited nearly a year she began calling Ng “nearly every week,” to explain that the difficulties the delay in status had been having on the think tank.

“Every week I’m calling her and I’m telling her, look, I can’t apply for any grants, which means I can’t hire anybody,” White said.

White explained that Ng told her the organization could solicit donations instead, which White replied would not be enough to cover the cost of additional employees.

“Up until now I’ve had volunteers, but slowly those volunteers have fallen off,” White recounted telling Ng. “Because they are only going to volunteer their time so often.”

“She was very dismissive, ‘there is not a whole lot I can do,'” White recalled Ng’s response.

White eventually got to the point where she would call twice a week to which Ng would tell her that she “is not the only reviewer, that others review as well and then they compile their questions and then if there are questions that need more documentation she would send that to me,” White said.

May 14 — four days after the tax exempt division head Lois Lerner apologized for the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups — White finally received a letter from the IRS requesting additional documentation, with inquiries not quite as extensive as the tea party but largely focused on the group’s get-out-the-vote and voter education activities.

White quickly responded to the IRS with a letter back dated the same day.

“We may not have the inquiries to the extent others did, but we had the delay,” White explained further in an email.

While the information request has not been as extensive as some tea parties the delay in attaining tax-exemption has proved to be a hardship for the organization and remains ongoing.

White is currently working to make money for the Wyoming think tank by substitute teaching.

“This is something I am doing now as a business, as of today, I am substitute teaching so that I can pay my volunteers a monthly salary,” White said explaining she had to start subbing in December.

Follow Caroline on Twitter