The Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee issued a staff report in September calling on the IRS to investigate the NRA over a trip to Russia. They want the IRS to pull the NRA’s 503(c)(4) tax designation. The Senate Finance Committee minority members even called the NRA a “foreign asset”.
Yesterday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley fired back in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. He characterized the Democrats’ efforts to get the IRS to investigate the NRA as “partisan” request. He said that the IRS ” is not a political weapon, and it should not be used as such. “
Sen. Grassley goes on to note:
The Minority report focuses on certain NRA personnel who traveled to Russia in December 2015 for a goodwill trip. After reviewing nearly identical evidence as the Minority staff at great length, it was clear to the Majority staff that nothing in those documents reasonably raises questions about whether the NRA should maintain its tax-exempt status under the tax code. Indeed, rather than present a careful and serious analysis, the Minority staff report offers incendiary conclusions unsupported by paragraphs full of belabored references to behavior that “raises serious” but undefined “concerns.” Even the cover of the Minority staff report deems the NRA a “Russian asset,” while nothing in the text of the actual report ever does more than editorialize to that effect.
He recalls the efforts of Obama Administration to politicize the Internal Revenue Service with some sadness.
Moreover, the IRS should never investigate taxpayers as a result of potential political motives. It is critical for the administration of our tax system that the IRS remain ideologically neutral when it comes to enforcing the tax code, and it is just as critical that taxpayers all throughout the United States know and believe this to be true. This decade has already seen the IRS involved in enough controversy around politically-motived tax enforcement, and the IRS should strive mightily to avoid such episodes in the future. As you are well aware, in May 2013 a scandal engulfed the IRS with its partisan enforcement of applications for tax-exempt status under Sec. 50I(c)(4) of the tax code, as led by Ms. Lois Lerner. Sadly, that scandal may have been precipitated by partisan requests for the IRS to investigate its perceived political opponents. This was a tragic episode in the IRS’ history and it must not happen again.
Grassley goes on to conclude that the IRS does important work. However, he warns that if the IRS is to retain its legitimacy with the American people, it must not “biased against them based on the exercise of their constitutional rights.”
He is right. The only way the IRS can ultimately get compliance with tax laws is voluntary compliance. If it is seen as a punitive tool by the Democrats – or the Republicans – it loses any sort of legitimacy and with that compliance. There are not enough IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents to compel compliance if the American people as a whole say, “I will not comply.”