Tennessee lawmakers push delay on rules governing tax-exempt groups

Tennessee lawmakers push delay on rules governing tax-exempt groups

February 12th, 2014 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., waits to ride the subway train that runs underneath the Capitol, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and fellow Senate Republicans are pushing a bill delaying for one year new Internal Revenue Service rules GOP lawmakers say can "target" political speech by nonprofit groups.

In a news release, Alexander said the rules fail to "protect the First Amendment rights of the American people."

A lead sponsor of the bill, Alexander also said he's joining colleagues in signing a letter to the IRS's new commissioner, John Koskinen, asking him to reconsider the rules.

"The IRS violated the First Amendment rights of the American people when it created what amounted to an enemies list of conservatives, including Tennessee tea party groups, to keep people quiet," Alexander said. "Now, instead of showing how it will protect the First Amendment rights of the American people to speak up and speak out, the IRS is proposing new regulations that are so broad they could limit the free speech. The American people need their trust restored -- not more federal overreach."

A number of groups with political aims seeking tax-exempt status were stymied by the IRS in recent years. Among them was the Chattanooga Tea Party, which an inspector general's report and other documents say was subjected by the IRS to "unnecessary" questioning and "significant processing delays in its request for nonprofit status.

The federal agency's foot-dragging delayed the group's request to be tax exempt by more than three years and two election cycles. It was among dozens singled out by the IRS because of their titles.

The GOP's Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act would delay for one year IRS rulemaking to define "candidate-related political activity" of tax-exempt "social welfare organizations."

It also requires the IRS to follow standards and regulations that were in effect prior to the agency's targeting of conservative groups during the 2012 election.