IRS Report: Tea Party Groups Weren't The Only Ones Targeted

The "be on the lookout list" used to flag Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny of their tax-exemption applications was not the only one the Internal Revenue Service had been using — there were others, covering a "broad spectrum" of groups and causes, according to an IRS report released Monday.

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The new head of the IRS says so far he hasn't found any evidence of intentional wrongdoing. He's been investigating whether the agency unfairly flagged Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. The new report from the IRS also finds that other groups, including some liberal groups, were systematically targeted. NPR's Tamara Keith tells us more.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The report released today by the IRS is preliminary. And as such, Danny Werfel, who is acting as the agency's commissioner, says any conclusions are also preliminary.

DANNY WERFEL: I'll be as clear as I can right now. I'm not providing a definitive conclusion that no intentional wrongdoing occurred. What I'm suggesting is based on the ongoing review to date, no evidence has yet surfaced.

KEITH: Either that IRS employees intentionally did something wrong or that forces outside of the IRS led to the targeting. In addition to the internal agency investigation, Congress and the Justice Department are also looking into how the Exempt Organizations Unit handled or, more accurately, mishandled applications for nonprofit status.

In a statement, California Republican Darrell Issa, who heads the House Oversight Committee, said Werfel's assertions are premature. An inspector general's report last month found that Tea Party groups were flagged for extra scrutiny, not based on any political activity the groups were doing but based simply on their names.

Those groups faced long wait times and, in some cases, unnecessary questions about their donors and their views. But Werfel today made it clear Tea Party groups weren't the only ones getting flagged. Screeners used be on the lookout lists or BOLO lists to identify groups that should get a closer look.

WERFEL: We discovered the existence of BOLO lists, which me and my team determined contained inappropriate criteria that was in use. And therefore, I took action to suspend the use of all BOLO lists.

KEITH: A memo went out to IRS employees late last week ending the use of BOLOs. A congressional aide confirms that progressives was among the BOLO terms, meaning it wasn't just conservative groups that were targeted. Werfel would only use generalities.

WERFEL: A wide-ranging set of categories and cases that spanned a broad spectrum.

KEITH: The IRS has also announced a streamlined process for groups seeking 501(c)(4) status as social welfare groups to end the long wait, as long as political activity is less than 40 percent of what they do. Tamara Keith, NPR News.

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