The real IRS scandal: Reinterpreting the law


Internal Revenue Service agents have been struggling to do their jobs–which have been made essentially impossible by an incorrect interpretation of the law that the IRS made in 1959. It was then that the IRS changed the language of the law without any authority to do so. Here is how the tax law was written in its latest update in 1954 on 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. The 501(c)(4) designation was to apply only to: “Civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”

But a 1959 interpretation guideline written by the IRS says that: ”To be operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare…”

With absolutely no legal oversight, the IRS changed the world “exclusively” to mean “primarily” and then the IRS never defined what it meant by primarily. msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell explains that the tax code must be enforced with the word “exclusively” so that no political organizations would ever be able to get 501(c)(4) status. “No Tea Party organizations, no Democratic party organizations, no Republican party organizations, no Libertarian party organizations, no party organizations of any kind should ever get 501(c)(4) status and that is exactly what the law already says,” O’Donnell said Wednesday night.

At his news conference, President Obama stressed the importance of enforcing clear laws. “We’re gonna have to make sure that the laws are clear so that we can have confidence that they are enforced in a fair and impartial way and there’s not too much ambiguity surrounding these laws.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) officially filed a lawsuit against the IRS for departing from statute on “exclusively” for social welfare in the code. The organization’s 17-page filing asks the IRS to simply enforce the law as written and to drop the IRS’ false interpretation of the law.