May 18, 2011- A group of Republican senators wrote to the head of the Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday seeking internal correspondence and other information about the agency’s heightened scrutiny of donations to some nonprofit advocacy groups that are playing a growing role in political campaigns.
At least five donors to such groups have received letters from the agency stating that their donations may be subject to federal gift taxes, invoking a provision of law long on the books but rarely enforced.
The Republicans, all members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has oversight of the I.R.S., said they were concerned that political considerations might have played a role in the agency’s decision to scrutinize such donations more closely. The senators are seeking the names of any agency staff members involved in that decision, along with internal documents and any correspondence with White House officials.
“This pattern of nonenforcement over a period of nearly three decades, coupled with the troubling issues regarding the adverse impact that enforcement might have on the exercise of constitutionally protected rights, raises important questions regarding the timing of the decision to enforce the gift tax on these contributions,” the senators wrote. “Retroactive enforcement of the gift tax in this highly politicized environment raises legitimate concerns and demands further explanation.”
The letter was signed by Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking member of the Finance Committee, and five of his colleagues.