As IRS Commissioner Koskinen Appears Before Lawmakers, Nonprofits Lament Another Distraction From Real Solutions

Oct. 27, 2015

As IRS Commissioner Koskinen Appears Before Lawmakers, Nonprofits Lament Another Distraction From Real Solutions

Another Partisan Hearing on the IRS Stands in the Way of Change

Note: Today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testifies before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee about the committee’s August 5 report on its investigation of the IRS’ processing of applications for tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2013. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a letter to lawmakers that it would not pursue its investigation further.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While the U.S. Senate Finance Committee attempts to score partisan points by bringing IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to testify about problems that came to light more than two years ago, nonprofits are asking that the IRS publish a new proposed rule to clarify the definition of political activity that proved so problematic.

The IRS and the Treasury Department are in the process of considering comments to a proposed rule that could clarify the definition of political activity for nonprofits. A permanent rule would prevent mistakes and abuses in enforcement while still protecting nonprofits’ ability to engage in the democratic process.

“The real scandal is leaving the vague ‘facts and circumstances’ test, which has caused so much trouble, in place,” said Emily Peterson-Cassin, coordinator for Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project, which is pushing for a clear definition of political activity for nonprofits. “Nonprofits have been waiting long enough for clarity from the IRS and Treasury on this issue.”

Added Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and manager of the Bright Lines Project, which is pushing for a clear definition of political activity for nonprofits, “Nonprofits and the public agree that it’s time to move on. We’ve been talking about the need for clearer definitions and safe harbors for more than two years. It’s time for the IRS and Treasury Department to make those desperately needed changes.”

The public is overwhelmingly supportive of objective rules for nonprofit political activity. Polling (PDF) shows that more than eight in 10 voters agree that clear, objective rules for political activity are a good idea.

###

The Bright Lines Project is pushing to change the tax code to include clear definitions and safe harbors for nonprofit political activity. Our expert drafting team has been working for years to create clear, fair rules that would apply to all nonprofits and would encourage nonpartisan civic engagement while removing opportunities for abuse. Read our proposal (PDF).