web analytics
December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘internal revenue service’

IRS in Court Friday, its Documents Prove Z STREET’s Claims

Friday, July 19th, 2013

The more evidence is revealed regarding the Internal Revenue Service’s treatment of organizations whose ideological views conflict with those of this Administration’s, the more it becomes apparent that the claims made against the IRS by a small pro-Israel non-profit back in August, 2010 were not only probably true, but are demonstrably true.  Incredibly, the proof that Z STREET’s claims are true was found in documents created by the IRS itself, in submissions to investigators looking into IRS misbehavior regarding other non-profits.

And on Friday, July 19, as the IRS makes its first court hearing in any case regarding claims that it mistreated many non-profits because of the ideological positions of those organizations, the proof of its ideological motivations are now public.

This Friday, July 19, at 10:00 a.m., Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will hear the government’s motion to dismiss Z STREET’s claims against it in courtroom 17 in the Federal district court in Washington, D.C.

In a federal lawsuit filed in August, 2010, Z STREET claimed that the IRS had engaged in viewpoint discrimination while processing Z STREET’s application for status as non-profit.  The basis for its claim was that the IRS agent assigned to Z TREET’s file told Z STREET’s corporate counsel that the review of Z STREET’s application for tax exempt status would take a long time because the IRS had to “give special scrutiny to organizations connected to Israel,” and that the files of some of those organizations “were sent to a special unit in Washington, D.C. to determine whether the organization’s activity’s contradict the public policy of the Administration.”

This Wednesday, July 17, Z STREET (this reporter is the president of the organization) filed a supplemental memorandum with the court, submitting newly-discovered evidence that the IRS employees created a purely political category “Occupied Territory Advocacy” as the basis for additional review of an organization’s application for tax exempt status.

All of the information about this IRS categorization is contained in documents which the IRS had been required to submit during an investigation conducted by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Affairs.  But these documents had not been made public earlier, because the IG’s mandate had been to look at organization’s whose applications were delayed on the basis of political orientation, the largest example being the Tea Party organizations.

However, on June 24, Rep. Sander Levin, (D-MICH), released a series of documents produced by the Internal Revenue Service.  Rep. Levin said he believed these materials proved the IRS had not only targeted conservative groups, but that it had also gone after “progressive” groups, i.e. liberal ones. Presumably, his goal was to prove that the IRS was not selective in its misbehavior, but had been an equal opportunity offender.  Levin believed that the 14 IRS documents which he released on June 24, 2013, made this point, and he then went on the offensive, lambasting the Treasury’s Inspector General, J. Russell George, for failing to raise this “fact” in his report.

Sympathetic media outlets immediately ran top-of-the fold headlines proclaiming, based upon statements made in a conference call given by Danny Werfel, the new Acting IRS Commissioner, with select members of the media, that the IRS had not only used the words “Tea Party” as a search term to target organizations for additional scrutiny, but that it had also targeted “progressives,” “Israel” and “Occupy.” Outlets which ran with this story, and used the claim in its headlines, included the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, and the Huffington Post.

But a detailed review of the IRS documents released by Levin, as well as a lengthy response by the Inspector General to Levin’s scathing letter, revealed that those documents did not prove what Levin and others hoped was being proved. In fact they proved something very different.

Although the term “progressives” was found as a category on several of the documents, just a few minutes’ perusal of that line item reveals that nothing was done with the organizations with that term in their title.  In fact, the Tab under which that term appears is “Potential Abusive Historical,” and the category had been moribund.  A note in one of the columns revealed that because those organizations were clearly engaged in political activity, IRS employees noted that they should have requested a 501(c)(4) and not the 501(c)(3) designation they sought.

Is Daniel Werfel Jewish?

Friday, May 24th, 2013

President Obama will be appointing senior White House budget officer Daniel Werfel (42) to be the acting commissioner of the IRS.

But the question our readers are asking us is, is Daniel Werfel a member of the Tribe? And is there another Jew in charge (after Jack Lew) of the U.S. finances?

Werfel certainly is a (German) Jewish sounding name.

The anti-Semites certainly think he’s Jewish.

But no one around here recalls going to his Bar Mitzvah or seeing him at any of the secret Elder meetings.

The door is still open on this one.

We’ll let you know as soon as we find out for sure.

IRS Chief Under the Congressional Spotlight on Friday

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

A concerted effort by a mid-level Internal Revenue Service official last Friday, May 10, to confess to some minor irregularities in how the IRS has dealt with conservative organizations seeking tax exempt status has unraveled.  Lois Lerner, who oversees tax exempt organizations for the IRS, attempted to get out the word under the radar.  She failed miserably.

Lerner attempted to present the issue as having affected a small number of organizations, targeted by using a few key words, and acted out by only a few low level IRS employees in a remote office, for a limited period of time, which took place without the consent or even knowledge of higher level IRS officials.  By Monday morning that cover had been entirely blown.

In the center of a scandal that continues to grow wider, deeper and longer by the day, the Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner will be sitting in the hot seat before the House Ways and Means Committee this Friday morning, May 17, starting at 9:00 a.m.

The hearing is to discuss the practice of targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on political leanings.  There will only be two people called to testify at this hearing: Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Steve Miller, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George.  Miller was the assistant to the former IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman, under whose watch many of the complaining organizations experienced allegedly excessive and inappropriate probing by the IRS.

The first admission, last Friday afternoon, was that the IRS had been subjecting certain conservative groups to increased scrutiny but insisting that only “low level IRS employees” in a remote Ohio office were using inappropriate ways in which to flag certain groups, and that the practice was short-lived.  The excuse was that in 2012 there were so many new groups seeking tax exempt status that the Agency had to figure out ways in which to more quickly help determine which groups were legitimate and which weren’t.

But as revelations continue to leak out of Washington, D.C., it appears the practice was much broader, it took place in multiple IRS offices in cities across the country, it went on for a much longer period of time than was originally admitted, and high level IRS officials were aware of some aspects of the progress for far longer than had earlier been admitted.

In addition to inappropriate questioning by IRS agents in Cincinnati, Ohio, the original site mentioned by Lerner, documents have revealed that agents in Washington, D.C. and at least one other IRS office were involved in providing increased levels of scrutiny to certain conservative organizations.

And it wasn’t only groups with the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their organization’s names that were pulled out of line for additional scrutiny.  The IRS net included groups that opposed Obamacare, those that focused on vote fraud, ones that sought to educate about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and ones that sought to limit the role of government.

Although Lerner claimed only low-level agents in the Cincinnati office engaged in and knew about the practice, it is now known that IRS employees in Washington were aware of the practice. The Inspector General’s report states that officials at the Internal Revenue Service knew in June 2011 that their agents were targeting conservative groups for additional scrutiny on tax documents, CNN reported Monday.

The original revelation of IRS inappropriate activity suggested that the practice only began in 2012, but the Inspector General’s report revealed that the practice began as far back as 2010.

IRC 501(c)(3) versus 501 (c)(4)

Thus far it appears that almost all of the groups complaining about the inappropriate, politically-oriented targeting are organizations seeking tax exempt status as “social welfare” organizations, which come under the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4).  These groups, as distinct from 501(c)(3) organizations, are given more leeway in terms of engaging in political activity. There was a huge increase in the number of such organizations following a 2010 Supreme Court decision which gave a hecksher to political campaign spending by corporations, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Both (c)(3) organizations and (c)(4) organizations are exempt from paying taxes, but only donations made to (c)(3) organizations are tax deductible.  Organizations that are (c)(3)s can engage in only very limited lobbying activity and cannot engage in political activity at all, whereas (c)(4)s can engage in unlimited lobbying and can engage in political activity to the extent it is consistent with the organization’s mission and so long as it is not the organization’s primary activity.

The pro-Israel and Jewish organizations that have complained about inappropriate IRS activity by the IRS are 501(c)(3)s.

It may be that the next wave of congressional inquiry will focus on what other kinds of organizations have been targeted for special scrutiny by the IRS.

In addition to Friday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing, the IRS can look forward to hearings before at least one more, if not two more, congressional committees.

On Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MONTANA) called for a full investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) also announced on Monday that the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations plans to investigate the new IRS revelations.

President Barack Obama issued a statement on Monday calling the alleged misdoing by the IRS “outrageous, if true.”  White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that Obama only found out about the matter last Friday.

Three Mistakes that Can Get You in Big Trouble

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Filing taxes is complicated. The forms aren’t particularly user friendly, and if you’re not quite sure what you’re doing you can end up making quite a few errors. The problem with errors on tax forms is that they can be very costly. For people who have multiple citizenships and residences (think olim or folks who spend a portion of the year living in Israel), the challenges of tax reporting are even more complicated.

I spoke with international tax lawyer Dave Wolf (and fellow contributor to a book on tax guidelines for American expatriates) and asked him, “What’s the worst mistake you’ve seen an expat make?”

He said: “The biggest mistake that I’ve seen expats make is believing that once they move out of America, they no longer have to report their worldwide income or report the existence of foreign bank accounts or companies.” Indeed, when it comes to the IRS, out of sight is not out of mind. It’s also important to note that if you have American citizenship through a parent or grandparent, even if you’ve never lived in America and English isn’t your mother tongue, you’re still obliged to report to the American tax authorities.

Mistake #2

Another common blunder that Dave mentioned was that people look for investment opportunities without taking into consideration the U.S. tax code. Specifically, complicated U.S. tax laws basically prevent American taxpayers from investing in overseas mutual funds. The IRS considers those investments “PFICs,” (passive foreign investment companies), and most Americans who understand how they work would not want to get involved with them or offshore mutual funds. When trying to invest smartly, lack of knowledge of international tax consequences can cost you a lot of money.

Final Mistake

The third blunder people make, Dave said, is “They either go to the wrong adviser, one who has no overseas experience, or they just don’t get any professional help at all.” I asked how you can avoid these mistakes. He said, “Make sure to consult with your tax lawyer, accountant, and/or investment manager before you leave the States to avoid any adverse tax consequences of investing or moving money overseas.” Sadly, many people overlook this seemingly small detail before making what could be one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives.

Find out more about what Dave has to say about avoiding making major tax mistakes by reading The Expatriate Guide to Managing Money and Taxes. For Jewish Press readers, get half off the regular price of the book by using the discount code JPRESS. Go to www.ExpatGuideToMoney.com and order now. The discount will expire on tax day, April 15th.

Knowledge is power, and reading this easy-to-follow guide for U.S. expats you can stay in full compliance with the law.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/goldstein-on-gelt/three-mistakes-that-can-get-you-in-big-trouble/2013/03/31/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: