A Pennsylvania Jewish group that has claimed the Internal Revenue Service is targeting pro-Israel groups introduced in federal court today a letter from an IRS agent to another, unnamed organization that tax experts said was likely outside the usual or appropriate scope of an IRS inquiry.Read the whole thing.
"Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?" IRS agent Tracy Dornette wrote the organization, according to this week's court filing, as part of its consideration of the organizations application for tax exempt status. "Describe your organization's religious belief sytem toward the land of Israel."
The document emerged in the course of a lawsuit filed in August by Z Street, a hawkish group that casts itself as the Zionist answer to the liberal J Street. Z Street claims that a different IRS agent reviewing its application for tax exempt status said the agency is "carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel" and that "a special unit" is determining whether its activities "contradict the Administration's public policies.'"
Here is a news release from Z Street from this past Monday:
Z STREET: IRS Continues Constitutional Violations
WHEN: November 22, 2010
CONTACT: CONTACT@ZSTREET.ORG 610.664.1184
Z STREET, an organization devoted to pro-Israel public education, today filed in federal court its Opposition to the government’s effort to continue violating the US Constitution by discriminating against the organization because its views on Israel and the Middle East differ from those of this government. On August 25, 2010 Z STREET filed a Complaint in federal court charging the Internal Revenue Service with constitutional violations by subjecting Z STREET’s application for tax exemption to a discriminatory process.
In its response to Z STREET’s Complaint, the government did not deny that it engaged in this First Amendment violation. Instead, the government’s position is that (1) it can violate the Constitution whenever it wants and the only way to stop it is if the government agrees to be stopped, and (2) Z STREET should go to a different court to get something it should already have - tax exempt status - were it not for the constitutional violation the government has inflicted upon it.
“As every American knows, the US government is bound by the Constitution, and it can be hailed into court and ordered to cease unconstitutional action whether it consents or not,” said Lori Lowenthal Marcus, president of Z STREET. “This evasive measure simply compounds the unconstitutional process by which our effort to achieve tax-exempt status has been, and is being, reviewed.”
Marcus added, “we have provided evidence that another applicant for charitable exemption was asked by the IRS, in writing, in connection with its application, whether it supports the existence of Israel, and what that organization’s religious beliefs are about Israel. The other organization is a Jewish one with a religious focus and has nothing to do with Israel at all,” she said. “There is something very serious, and very wrong, in the process the IRS is using to allocate tax exempt determinations, and Z STREET is committed to exposing and righting that wrong.”
The documents filed with the court can be found here on the Z ST website.
The question that needs to be answered is whether this is a matter of a misguided IRS agent or evidence of a broader policy that targets pro-Israel groups.
Technorati Tag: Z Street and IRS.