At the heart of the issue is the IRS request for large amounts of data, including posts on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, organizational literature, donor information and information about the relatives of key members.
Although the IRS won't comment on specific cases, IRS officials say they are simply trying to gather enough data to determine if a group qualifies for tax-exempt status. Groups who qualify under section 501 (c) (4) of the federal tax code must not be engaged in activities that could influence an election.
It's no surprise that Tea Party groups would be extra-sensitive to any pressure from the IRS, considering that one of the central messages of the Tea Party is the need for smaller, less intrusive government and lower taxes.
However, the IRS has been accused of political vendettas for years, by liberal and conservative groups alike.
Considering this is an election year, there is certainly added pressure on the IRS to monitor tax-exempt groups like the Republican-leaning Crossroads GPS and Democratic-leaning Priorities USA. These groups now have the ability to direct huge amounts of cash to influence the outcome of elections, without the need to disclose donors.
Conservatives complain that the sheer volume of detailed information the IRS is demanding is coercive and amounts to intimidation. All designed to block the ability for these groups to get the tax-exempt status they seek.
Some authorities on the laws that govern tax-exempt status have expressed surprise at the sheer volume and detail the IRS is requesting from these groups. Others are less surprised, claiming that the Tea Party groups look less and less like tax-exempt groups, and more like an actual political parties.
Tea Party Leaders claim they are mostly educational organizations, teaching members about the Constitution, and inviting members to discuss issues.
Ever since a 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing outside groups to spend unlimited funds in elections, such organizations have been under scrutiny.
In January, seven Democratic senators claimed these groups are "improperly engaged in a substantial or even a predominant amount of campaign activity" and asked the IRS to investigate.
***Bryson Law Firm, LLC is a Louisiana law firm focusing 100% of our practice on helping people and businesses solve their IRS and Louisiana state tax problems. We have offices throughout the state in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport.**