By Luana Wang
Last year the IRS announced its intent to make new rules governing nonprofit political activity. These rules have been much anticipated and welcomed by many, though they will not be in place for 2016.
Some might say that pushing the new rules until after the 2016 election is a sign of weakness from the IRS, but let’s put that into perspective.
We’ve known for months and months that the new rules would not apply to the 2016 elections. Commissioner John Koskinen stated that fact bluntly in a hearing, and really, the pace of the rulemaking process would allow anyone to that infer logically. And though significant threats and criticisms have attempted to intimidate the IRS into withdrawing these rules altogether, the IRS has continued to work on these important regulations.
Some examples of what they have dealt with:
- The Lois Lerner controversy has shockingly been dragging on for more than two years now (more than fifteen dog years!). More than $20 million went into the IRS Inspector General’s latest investigation into Republican allegations of intentional destruction of evidence by the IRS, which ultimately found that such allegations were unsubstantiated.
- A data breach and identity theft crisis put 100,000 taxpayers and $50 million in refunds at risk. Brazen scammers have even stolen the IRS’s identity, posing as the agency to call taxpayers asking for money.
- Millions of dollars in budget cuts by a Republican-controlled Congress have likely impeded IRS efforts to improve security and respond to the data breach. These budget cuts to the IRS have likely already cost the government $7 billion to $8 billion of revenue a year on average since 2010.
That the IRS is taking on this difficult rulemaking in such a tumultuous time is a testament to its importance. Although voters and elected officials may wish that these rules could be in place for 2016, they should not forget the long-term impacts and importance of changing the ways nonprofits engage in political activity.
Even if these rules may not take effect until after 2016, they will likely be released and available for comment within the next few months. Follow us @brightlinesproj for updates!
Luana Wang is a legal fellow with Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project