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IRS Hearings At U.C.
An Ohio House Committee heard testimony Thursday from members of conservative groups who said they were inappropriately scrutinized by the IRS as their groups sought tax-exempt status.
The hearing was held for a House resolution co-sponsored by Rep. Dale Mallory (D) Cincinnati. It "urges the Internal Revenue Service to correct its policy of targeting tax-exempt status applications for additional review based on the applicant organization's presumed political affiliation."
"We very much appreciate the sunlight being provided to this important issue," said Tim Savaglio of the Liberty Township Tea Party.
Savaglio's group applied for tax-exempt status in 2010. He received lengthy questionnaires from the agency asking more than 30 questions about his members, the contents of speeches guests had given to the group and whether members of their family had or planned to run for office. Savaglio said his group's application has yet to be approved.
"We followed the law and applied to the government to secure status that would enable those needs only to be met with an intrusive process that others before us did not experience," Savaglio said.
Savaglio's group was asked in question number 26 to provide details about its relationship with Justin Binik-Thomas of Deer Park. Savaglio and Binik-Thomas didn't know each other at the time but now they are friend. Binik-Thomas said he received a letter from the IRS stating it didn't ask about specific people. He still doesn't know why the agency was asking about him.
"The primary concerns are will I be audited? Will my small business be audited? Will other agencies receive my material? The downstream risks are much more serious than the immediate risks," Binik-Thomas said.
One woman in the audience said she felt the IRS should scrutinize Tea Party and other groups.
"The IRS needs to ask questions about the connections to political parties, connections to candidates, and some of those can be a bit intrusive and maybe the questions are too long. But in fact it's in our best as taxpayers and funding of services for us not to just give out non-profit status willy-nilly," said Catherine Turcer.
But, Representative Mallory said the targeting needs to stop - whether conservative or liberal groups are the subject of it.
"There's politics playing a part here. Somebody engaged in a game that they shouldn't have and they do not represent either party. They kind of represented themselves," Rep. Mallory said.
The Committee invited Cincinnati IRS employees to the hearing since they have been blamed for it. No one from the IRS appeared.
Committee members are now exploring the option of issuing a subpoena to them for a later hearing. If the Ohio House and Senate approve the resolution, it will be sent to Congress and President Obama.