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Both Sides: Is the IRS still inappropriately targeting groups?

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Newly released IRS interview transcript excerpts suggest Tea Party groups may still be receiving inappropriate additional screening for tax exempt applications.

The IRS is pushing back, however, maintaining they are no longer using inappropriate political labels.

"As Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel has repeatedly made clear, the IRS has taken decisive action to eliminate the use of inappropriate political labels in the screening of 501(c)(4) applications," the IRS wrote in a statement sent to FOX19 Friday.

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp released the partial transcripts this week from an interview that took place on August 1.

"It is outrageous that IRS management continues to target Tea Party cases without any justification," Camp wrote in a statement. " The harassment, abuse and delays these Americans have faced over the last few years has been unwarranted, unprovoked and, at times, possibly illegal. The fact that the IRS still continues to treat the Tea Party differently and subject them to additional targeting is outrageous, and it must stop immediately."

The transcripts released by Camp cover four pages out of a roughly 40 page transcribed interview.

The latest release includes an IRS agent stating they have not been given direction on how to handle sensitive political advocacy cases for the last month and a half, which the IRS flatly denies.

The newly released transcript excerpts show a committee staffer asking how agents are currently analyzing advocacy cases.

While the IRS agent states the BOLO list does not exist anymore, they go on to say, "If a political advocacy case came in today, I would give it -- or talk about it to my manager because right now we really don't have any direction or we haven't had any for the last month and a half."

In a statement released to FOX19, the IRS responded in part by saying, "Shortly after Werfel arrived, he directed the IRS to eliminate the use of BOLO lists. IRS policy is now clear that screening is based on activity, not words in a name. The new steps and current policies were outlined in the June 24 report, and the report specifically spells out that political campaign intervention will be reviewed without regard to specific labels. The IRS will not tolerate any deviation from this."

The June report clearly states the following:

"In the absence of BOLO lists, the Determinations Unit will continue to screen for information affecting the determination of applications for tax exempt status, including activity tied to political campaign intervention, but it will be done without regard to specific labels of any kind."

Part of the issue is a controversial grey area in the IRS regulations that charges IRS agents with the task of determining whether social welfare groups applying for tax exempt status are primarily engaged in promoting the "common good and general welfare" of the community and not primarily engaged in political advocacy. 

When the committee staff asks whether the agent would treat a Tea Party group as a political advocacy case even if there was no evidence of political activity on the application, the agent responded in the August 1 interview by saying they would be based on their current manager's direction.

IRS officials tell FOX19 they look forward to seeing the full transcript to gain a better understanding of the context of the interview.

FOX19 asked if the full transcripts from the chairman's committee office would be made available to the public or the IRS, but so far those transcripts have not been released. 

In our commitment to balanced news, FOX19 reached out to the Democratic ranking member of the committee for comment, but as of Friday afternoon had not received a response. 

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