OPINION COLUMNS

The IRS and the TEA party

By D.A. Sharpe | Published Saturday, May 25, 2013

It was gratifying to see the updates this week by Wise County Congressional representatives Kay Granger and Mac Thornberry regarding the abuses cited of the IRS. The pervasiveness of what we’re hearing threatens most of what we understand about First Amendment rights and our innate freedom to disagree with our government. My comments here are going to fall on both sides of this debate.

D.A. Sharpe

D.A. Sharpe

Much is being said about the unfairness of applying these IRS procedures against only politically conservative groups. I agree. It is appalling that the IRS would propose the kind of inquiries cited recently against anybody or any organization.

It’s inappropriate for government to apply those questions to even the most left-wing of political groups either. That is not the kind of freedom we are supposed to represent in the United States of America. We are free to support heartily our government, and we are free to offer criticism as each one of us sees fit.

Kay Granger’s press release May 23 said: “The IRS’s intrusive inquiries hit far too close to home, as the North East Tarrant Tea Party was subjected to the IRS’s intrusive questioning. According to the organization’s website, the IRS demanded they submit ‘a copy of every tweet made from their Twitter account and every Facebook post (which would require hundreds of pages of documentation); the personal resumes of all their board members; copies of every flier they’ve made as well as every flier guest speakers have handed out; a list of all the items they’ve ever purchased, from what business, at what price, and how much those items were sold for; and the name of every volunteer and what they’ve done for the organization,’ among other things.”

Those demands are so far from reality and reasonability that they are just appalling.

The extensive elements that seem to be floating to the surface reflect the fact that government overstepped its bounds beyond what can be solved by merely dismissing a few executives. It is apparent there is a vast culture alive and well in government that is out to get any citizen who does not support what the government is doing. It is time for a total revamping of the purposes and authority of the IRS, for example, and we should encourage the reform of our entire taxing system.

Simplify, simplify, simplify! The IRS code is beyond understanding by the vast majority of citizens. Congress, hear the call: Get to work on the sacred cows of our taxing culture and bring the kind of order and more level playing fields.

Now, to speak to the other side of these IRS-oriented matters. In my experience the Wise County Republican Party, for which I have been a chairman and which I now serve as director of communications, is a non-profit political party. We are not required to pay taxes on our income because none of the party’s funds personally benefit any individual. WCRP has no paid employees and receives funds essentially as political gifts from like-minded citizens.

Those gifts are not deductible on those donors’ federal income tax returns. The same would be true for the Wise County Democratic Party. Here is what I do not understand.

While I support the right of people to form organizations, such as many of the Tea Party groups, I cannot understand why they are claiming tax-exempt status that would allow their donors to deduct gifts on their personal income tax returns. How is a Tea Party group different from either Wise County political party or those in the other 254 counties in Texas?

Presumably their applications are on the basis of being an educational activity, educating the public about government. My view is that any group engaging in the kind of activities I’ve seen Tea Party groups doing should be allowed freely to operate – but their donors have no business getting tax deductions for supporting them.

D.A. Sharpe of Aurora is communications director for the Wise County Republican Party.

One Response to “The IRS and the TEA party”

  1. I would like the clear up the understandable confusion about 501(c)(4) organizations. Only contributions to certain 501(c)(4) groups such as volunteer fire departments and similar groups collecting funds to be used for public purposes, as well as most veterans’ organizations, are tax deductible as charitable contributions. Otherwise, donations to 501(c)(4) organizations are NOT deductible as charitable contributions. (Under certain circumstances, donations MAY be deductible as business expenses.) So, while the organization itself may be tax exempt if it qualifies under 501(c)(4), that does not in turn generally make it treated as a charity for donations made to it. Apparently, the reasons there have been such an interest in these organizations are that 1) they are tax exempt, and 2) they do not have to disclose their donors. In turn, they are allowed to do some politiking, as long as it is supposedly not “primarily” what they do. Where they differ from a purely political organization is that political organizations DO have to disclose their donors. In today’s divisive political climate, they are many people and businesses who prefer to keep their political leanings private, lest they be boycotted by someone leaning the other direction.

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