IRS and Political Speech: The Tax Collection Agency Should Not Police Speech

January 1, 2018   •  By IFS Staff   •    •  
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Groups seeking tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization must apply to the IRS to obtain this classification. Advocacy nonprofits, designated by a 501(c)(4) status, are one such classification of tax-exempt organizations that are permitted to engage in some political activities, so long as the majority of their activities are not political.

As the Tea Party movement gained its footing in March 2010, the IRS began scrutinizing groups applying for 501(c)(4) status using politically biased criteria. Government agents using personal information to target political views they disapprove of is one of the most severe threats to First Amendment freedoms that exists today. The IRS is a tax collection agency. Neither it nor its agents should be in any position to evaluate Americans’ political speech, let alone punish Americans for political messages that the IRS disapproves of. The IRS is ill-equipped to deal with these situations. Instead, the decisions should go to a government agency with expertise in political speech matters, such as the Federal Election Commission. To fully protect the First Amendment, the IRS cannot be the speech police.

IFS Staff

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