The House Ways and Means Committee chair wants more time to investigate the agency’s targeting of conservative groups and to review potential rule changes.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced legislation (H.R. 3865) last week to block the Internal Revenue Service from finalizing new restrictions on the political activities of 501(c)(4) social welfare groups.
The proposed restrictions, unveiled by the IRS in November, are intended to more clearly define what a social welfare group is and limit the amount and type of political activity that they can participate in. They would restrict groups from engaging in activities like get-out-the-vote campaigns and voter-registration drives or handing out material supporting a candidate. The guidelines are open for public comment until February 27.
“This proposed guidance is a first critical step toward creating clear-cut definitions of political activity by tax-exempt social welfare organizations,” Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur said in a statement announcing the proposed rules. “We are committed to getting this right before issuing final guidance that may affect a broad group of organizations.”
Camp, who led an investigation into the IRS’s targeting of organizations seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status, said that the investigation is still ongoing and that the committee needs more time to review documents they are still waiting to receive. His bill would delay implementation of the new rules for one year to allow the committee to complete the investigation and review public comments on the proposal.
“It is premature to publish new rules before getting all of the facts,” Camp said in a statement. “The administration’s proposed rules openly target groups that are exercising their First Amendment rights. We cannot allow these draft regulations to go into effect. Congress must make sure every American’s right to participate and engage in civic debate is protected, and this legislation will provide some much-needed assurance that IRS targeting and surveillance will not continue.”
While the guidelines were directed at 501(c)(4) organizations, the IRS and the Treasury Department raised the question of whether or not similar restrictions should extend to other tax-exempt groups, including trade associations and labor unions. ASAE is preparing comments to address that question.