The Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names. These applications (hereafter referred to as potential political cases)13 were forwarded to a team of specialists14 for review. Subsequently, the Determinations Unit expanded the criteria to inappropriately include organizations with other specific names (Patriots and 9/12) or policy positions. While the criteria used by the Determinations Unit specified particular organization names, the team of specialists was also processing applications from groups with names other than those identified in the criteria. The inappropriate and changing criteria may have led to inconsistent treatment of organizations applying for tax-exempt status. For example, we identified some organizations’ applications with evidence of significant political campaign intervention that were not forwarded to the team of specialists for processing but should have been. We also identified applications that were forwarded to the team of specialists but did not have indications of significant political campaign intervention. All applications that were forwarded to the team of specialists experienced substantial delays in processing. Although the IRS has taken some action, it will need to do more so that the public has reasonable assurance that applications are processed without unreasonable delay in a fair and impartial manner in the future.
The Determinations Unit developed and began using criteria to identify potential political cases for review that inappropriately identified specific groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their names or policy positions instead of developing criteria based on tax-exempt laws and Treasury Regulations.
[I]n May 2010, the Determinations Unit began developing a spreadsheet that would become known as the “Be On the Look Out” listing (hereafter referred to as the BOLO listing),15 which included the emerging issue of Tea Party applications. In June 2010, the Determinations Unit began training its specialists on issues to be aware of, including Tea Party cases. By July 2010, Determinations Unit management stated that it had requested its specialists to be on the lookout for Tea Party applications.