IRS may also be targeting pro-Israel groups

The nonprofits claim they're getting the same extra scrutiny that Tea Party organizations have received.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 18, 2013 12:19PM
The exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington, Friday, March 22, 2013. (Susan Walsh/AP)Already under fire for improperly targeting Tea Party groups, the IRS has ratcheted up its scrutiny of pro-Israel organizations, a move that has unnerved some Jewish organizations. That's according to the Jewish Daily Forward, perhaps the leading newspaper covering Jewish issues.

"Several Jewish not-for-profit organizations have faced extensive questioning on their ties to Israel when applying for tax-exempt status, . . . leading to a lengthy approval process," the newspaper recently said, adding that both a progressive and right-wing organization complained of delays.

An IRS spokesperson rejected the idea that pro-Israel groups are being targeted, telling The Forward that any group that transfers funds overseas is given additional scrutiny to make sure its money doesn't wind up in the hands of terrorists. (The article isn't available on the newspaper's website). Most terrorist groups that operate in Israel, such as Hamas, however, are enemies of the Jewish state.

Pro-Israel groups said they found the IRS' lengthy approval processes confusing, to say the least.

"It was almost like a police investigation where they ask the same question again and again," Haim Simon, the national director of the progressive group Ameinu, said in an interview with The Forward. Z Street, a conservative group, sued the IRS, arguing that having an "Israel Policy" violates the First Amendment.

During a recent congressional hearing on the targeting of conservative groups, the issue of pro-Israel groups came up, according to the conservative National Review Online (NRO). IRS agent Gary Muthert told the House Oversight Committee that the pro-Israel groups were treated the same as any other organization raising funds to be spent overseas.

He has also testified that IRS officials in Washington, D.C., directed the targeting of conservative groups, which the Obama administration disputes. Cincinnati is where the IRS group that reviews applications for tax-exempt status has significant operations.
As the NRO noted, a political debate has swirled in Washington for years over the tax-exempt status of pro-Israel groups. The Arab-American Anti-Discriminatory Committee has "a spate of administrative complaints with the Treasury Department and the IRS, alleging that pro-Israel groups raising funds for settlements in the West Bank were supporting 'illegal' and terrorist activities abroad," the site says.

It seems the only thing that conservatives and liberals agree on is that the rules governing tax-exempt statuses are way too cumbersome and need to be changed. Otherwise, the IRS may take regrettable shortcuts like targeting groups based on beliefs that most Americans don't agree with.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jun 18, 2013 1:13PM

Don't forget the top Romney donors who were identified by the Obama campaign in 2012 and suddenly found themselves and their businesses being audited.  Just a coincidence I'm sure.  

Jun 18, 2013 12:49PM
What should be unnerving is that these Groups actually exist in the United States. Israel is the top Recipient of Aid from the United States(Billions) in spite of their small size and Successful Economy. Yet folks are taking up money to help Israel when folks here at home are losing Jobs and living in Poverty. That's insane.
Jun 18, 2013 12:46PM
Based on the actions of the IRS over the last 4 years, heads should be rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.  Instead, no one takes responsibility, no one suffers any consequences and there are no measures taken or assurances given that this will never happen again.  The tax collection arm of a  government is used to wield political power in 3rd world regimes and dictatorships, it's not supposed to happen in the USA.  Welcome to the Banana Republic of America.
Jun 18, 2013 12:54PM
There was an recent investigation of a Non-Profit for Cancer. They only give back around 2% of the funds they receive back to Cancer Patients, and most of that are from the actual physical donations. The Father and the Son are in on the Scam while the former Wife has her own SCAM Non-Profit.

Fact is that far too many SCAM non-profits exist in this Country scamming Americans all in the Name of Public Service. The only service they are performing is for themselves. Meanwhile, the sheep rush to Blame the IRS. Corruption is rampant in America, you will most of it with farce 501(c)s. They pay themselves as much or more than what folks make at For Profit Organizations. It's high time they received far more scrutiny, not less.

Jun 21, 2013 7:26AM
Bottom line is that the entire system of the IRS is being unfairly attacked because certain folks don't want to pay any taxes. Yet they want all the benefits which comes with living in America. Protecting America isn't Cheap. That's why we spend on Defense alone more than the next 10 countries combined. Someone has to pay for two unfunded wars. While America's infrastructure is falling apart, folks are trying to avoid paying taxes while trying to scam everyone via scam 501(c)s.
Jun 18, 2013 1:02PM
Most Americans don't agree with a bunch of 501(c)s trying to SCAM them Johnny. If you can't see it, feel it, go to it and see the Results(Fact-check), it's likely just another SCAM.
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