Tea Party Groups Tax Exempt Because of Social Welfare: Really?
I understand the outrage over the IRS singling out applicants for the 501(c) (4) tax-exempt status by the use of certain words, such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot”, but I do not understand the lack of outrage that Tea Party type groups ask for a tax-exempt status in the first place.
The implication that a Tea Party group is “primarily” a social welfare organization sounds like some kind of joke to me. These same groups of people who screamed at town hall meetings their displeasure with ObamaCare as a socialist, communist takeover by the government, while they were applying for status as a “primarily” social welfare programs themselves, from that same government.
Therefore, once we get through raging over the fact that some low-level employees at the IRS did a bias and stupid thing, perhaps we can look at the bigger picture. We should ask ourselves why hundreds of these groups calling themselves “the Tea Party” and “Patriots “suddenly begun applying for this tax exempt status in the first place, knowing full well they are not a social welfare organization, nor are they promoting any social welfare.
Hypocrisy comes to mind, but so does fraud. Did some of these groups lie on their applications, implying they were a social welfare organization? Of course, let us look at both liberal and conservative groups and leave nobody out but I believe an investigation is in order.
I worked for five and half years of my own life for a social welfare organization under the 501(c) (3) tax exempt status as a religious organization, which actually provided social welfare through housing and feeding the homeless. I am sure there are some wonderful organizations under the 501(c) (4) status that actually provide social welfare to a need in the community, but Tea Party type organizations are not known for doing social welfare, or as far as I know, promoting social welfare either.
The current statute says:
“An organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community.”
Reading this, I cannot for the life of me, see where the normal activities of a Tea Party group could be viewed as “promoting the common good and general welfare of the community”. Perhaps carrying signs depicting our president, Barack Obama as Hitler or some other negative character, such as the devil, somehow promotes the common good of our nation, though I do not see how.
I think it was completely wrong what the IRS office in Cincinnati did but thanks to their actions, we now know something of interest concerning Tea Party groups and even some liberal groups who profess to offer social welfare in order to gain tax exempt status. I also believe a little outrage is in order.
Let us not forget political strategist and one-time Bush adviser, Karl Rove’s organization, American Crossroads, which also has 501(c) (4) tax-exempt status and we should wonder, just what social welfare program does he provide; perhaps meals on wheels for billionaires? We may not be able to see his organization’s list of donors but there is no reason why his organization, which primarily, if not exclusively, is a political organization, should have a tax-exempt status that was meant for actual social welfare organizations.
Our Congress should change the language of the law to show that an organization must “exclusively” provide or promote social welfare and make it clear that any organization involved with politics in any large way at all, would not be eligible for the tax-exemption status. Then add some teeth to the law by threatening a stiff penalty for fraudulent claims, such as those political groups claiming to be “social welfare” organizations.
Government departments can be held accountable for their unscrupulous actions but private organizations that are known to promote political agendas are under no such accountability. The least we can do is see that an organization does not gain tax-exempt status unless they have more to offer to their community than just criticism of our government.