This article is part of a symposium held at Valparaiso University Law School entitled "Money in Politics: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

In 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration faulted the Internal Revenue Service for the appearance of impartiality because it used names and policy positions such as “Tea Party” and conservative ideology to pick applications for tax-exempt status for greater scrutiny. The Inspector General's review came after members of Congress accused the Service of "targeting" conservative organizations. This Article finds the Inspector General's claim lacks a firm foundation. The use of names to select organizations for closer review fits well within the discretionary space that both Congress and courts provide to the Service to collect revenue. However, a narrower legal and ethical claim is supportable: where an enforcement choice impinges on a fundamental constitutional right the Service should exercise a higher degree of care to ensure that its screening choices do not appear biased in an unconstitutional manner. Thus, this review finds the Inspector General's primary claim regarding it being inappropriate to use names to screen applications to be incorrect. However, it finds that the Service violated an ethical norm because it failed to bring a high level of care to a matter that at least impinged on a fundamental Constitutional right. The Article recommends that the Service continue using names to screen applications for tax-exempt status. However, the Article suggests the Service implement procedures to document an unbiased process when evaluating applications that raise questions of a fundamental Constitutional nature.


49 Val. U. L. Rev. 453 (2015)


United States, Internal Revenue Service, Tax Exempt & Government Entities, United States, Dept. of the Treasury, Office of Inspector General, United States, Internal Revenue Code, Income tax exemptions -- Law & legislation, Tea Party movement (U.S.) -- Taxation, Government agencies -- United States -- Rules & practice, Civil rights -- United States, Internal revenue law -- United States

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