Guest Post By Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder. Follow him on Twitter @PeterKinder.
As if illegally targeting groups based on their conservative political or religious beliefs isn’t bad enough, it now appears IRS auditors have America’s veterans in their cross hairs.
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs last week requested the Internal Revenue Service respond to complaints its inspectors are asking veterans service organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars to provide official discharge papers or service records during reviews of their tax-exempt status.
What could possibly warrant this attack on our nation’s veterans – men and women who, in many cases, risked their lives to secure our nation’s liberties?
Most veterans are patriotic, God-fearing, law-abiding lovers of liberty. What beef would the IRS have with these groups and their apolitical service to all Americans?
Americans were justifiably outraged to learn IRS auditors targeted groups seeking tax-exempt status that had words like “tea party,” “patriot” and “constitution” in their names with invasive questioning and years-long processing delays. Now it appears the same bureaucrats in Lois Lerner’s Exempt Organizations Division are targeting veterans groups for the same reason. That is, too many of their members vote Republican.
A Gallup poll in 2009 found that veterans are more likely to be Republican than non-veterans of comparable ages. This Republican skew is evident across all age groups, ranging from a 15-point difference favoring Republicans in the 25-29 age group to a 2-point difference in the 85-plus group.
The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, has about 2.4 million members and 14,000 posts. Veterans of Foreign Wars, with 1.5 million members, is the nation’s second largest veterans group. It has more than 7,600 chapters.
That is a lot of potential votes to suppress by turning the arbitrary, unpredictable and impenetrable fog that is the tax code into an instrument of fear, punishment and political control.
This is an outrage and more evidence it is past time to rein in an out-of-control IRS. Citizens are helpless when targeted by bureaucratic bandits using the tax law as a political weapon and are armed with a cryptic code that even the agency’s own lawyers can’t decipher.
At issue is the 13-part section of Part 4, Chapter 76 of the Internal Revenue Manual pertaining to “veterans’ organizations,” which sets conditions for veterans’ organizations to be exempt from federal taxes.
Previously, veterans organizations simply kept a list of members and their dates of service. Since January 2011, however, the IRS field manual directs IRS employees to inspect discharge documents.
The penalty for not having the required proof of eligibility is $1,000 a day, according to the American Legion. The organization said its Post 447 in Round Rock, Texas, was fined $12,000 for lack of compliance before rounding up the necessary documents to satisfy inspectors.
This raised level of scrutiny is unwarranted and tramples the privacy rights of our nation’s heroes. Besides, many older veterans have lost their records, or the originals have been destroyed and are unavailable.
For decades, Legion posts have complied with the IRS rules and have in good faith kept records required by the government. Now Lois Lerner’s lackeys have changed the rules, arbitrarily and capriciously targeting those who fought to protect and defend this nation.
Congress should review this outrageous overreach by President Barack Obama’s Administration and finally rein in the IRS.
Otherwise, President Lincoln’s immortal admonition at Gettysburg that “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish” risks becoming government subjugation of the people, by unelected bureaucrats, for the liberal elite.