Prof. Aprill quoted about IRS targeting conservative groups

Professor Ellen Aprill, a nationally renowned tax law expert, weighed in on the question "Should 501(c)(4)'s Be Eliminated" in the New York Times' Room For Debate. Her response titled, "Create a New Category," suggests that a new exemption category for organizations that primarily lobby would resolve the problems that 501(c)(4)'s create. Excerpt:

A special category for organizations that primarily lobby seems appropriate. Lobbying, like electioneering, is covered under the First Amendment. Yet Congress has not addressed lobbying as an exempt activity, other than to say that charitable 501(c)(3) organizations can lobby only to a limited extent. Organizations that lobby present an important issue that merits Congressional consideration.

Establishing this new category of organizations would also help cure the schizophrenia that infects Section 501(c)(4). Today, some organizations that do not benefit a broad enough charitable class are categorized under 501(c)(4), while others in this section would be better labeled as 501(c)(3), but fail to qualify because of their substantial political lobbying activities. With a new category for exempt organizations engaged in lobbying, Section 501(c)(4) could be limited to organizations that offer a social welfare.

 

The Los Angeles Times also quoted her on the topic. Excerpt:

As Ellen Aprill, a tax law expert at Loyola Law School, observed later that year, "at that point, the IRS threw in the towel" — even though there was little doubt that the tax levy was proper and plainly constitutional.

 

She was quoted in a Washington Post story about IRS documents that suggest the agency gave greater scrutiny to groups critical of government. Excerpt:

Loyola Law School professor Ellen Aprill, who specializes in tax law, said any groups that have applied for tax-exempt status has “opened themselves up to scrutiny” by the IRS. “It’s part of their job to look for organizations that may be more likely to have too much campaign intervention,” she said. “But it is important to try to make these criteria as politically neutral as possible.”

Aprill said one of the problems is the agency’s top officials have not provided clear enough guidelines on what constitutes too much political activity for a social welfare group because it’s been “a hot potato,” and that now with this new controversy, “it’s going to make it even more difficult to do so.”

 

Talking Points Memo wrote a story on the American Bar Association tax section's annual summit in Washington D.C. Lois Lerner, head of the IRS' tax-exempt organizations division, fielded a question from a tax lawyer in the audience and made a rather surprising admission about the IRS' review of certain 501(c)(4) organizations.  Aprill attended the panel and was quoted in the article:

"We all just sort of looked at each other and couldn’t quite understand,” Ellen Aprill, a professor at Loyola Law School who was in the audience, told TPM on Monday. “It seemed so odd that it was such a detailed response to the question rather than part of her prepared remarks.”