IRS ordered to resolve Tea Party groups' applications

IRS ordered to resolve Tea Party groups' applications

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered the IRS to resolve pending applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups that had been subjected to improper scrutiny.

District Judge Reggie Walton last week ruled that the IRS has to issue determinations by Nov. 11 for groups with pending applications and groups whose applications were previously withdrawn because of the targeting but were reactivated during a hearing.

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Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, whose group represents 38 groups that are suing the IRS, said on his group's website Monday that one of his clients, the Albuquerque Tea Party, submitted its application for tax-exempt status almost seven years ago, and another client, Unite in Action, submitted its application six-and-a-half years ago.

"As a result of Judge Walton’s order, these years-long application processes are finally concluding, and the organizations are receiving the review and determinations they deserve," he said. "This is a major victory."

The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The order follows an August ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that found that the IRS hadn't demonstrated that it had stopped targeting conservative groups. That ruling revived a lawsuit from Tea Party groups over the targeting and sent the case back to the district court.

The August ruling has been cited by House Freedom Caucus members as a reason why IRS Commissioner John Koskinen should be impeached. But Koskinen said in September that the few Tea Party group applications that were pending in 2013 and are still pending hadn't been completely processed because of an IRS policy to stop activity on an applications connected to litigation. He added that he asked IRS officials to resolve those applications as soon as practicable. 

In addition to requiring the IRS to make determinations on pending applications, Walton also ordered the IRS to explain by Nov. 11 why it thinks the claims of plaintiffs who have already received determinations are moot in light of the August ruling. The IRS needs to explain "why these plaintiffs who have been granted tax-exempt statuses will not experience any negative consequences resulting from the alleged discriminatory targeting scheme employed by the defendants throughout their tenure as a tax- exempt entities," Walton said.

Sekulow said that "as a result of this order, the IRS will, at long last, be required to disclose the details of the lawless and unconstitutional Tea Party targeting scheme."  

"The court’s requirement that the IRS give account for its conduct is a tacit acknowledgment that plaintiffs—as well as the American public—deserve honesty and transparency from their government."

- updated at 5:21 p.m.