IRS Poised to Step Up Efforts to Limit Free Speech, New Tax Watchdog Warns

The IRS recently announced plans to redefine electioneering to include all discussion about politicians and how they vote, which could prevent non-profit organizations from informing voters and supporting or opposing legislation. Congressional protections for nonprofits expire October 1st, 2016.

Tax Revolution Institute (TRI) is announcing its launch with a research and education project, Tax Watch, that will promote transparency, accountability and integrity in the U.S. tax system. To this end, Tax Watch will inform the public about the activities of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), their Congressional oversight, and tax enforcement policies that directly affect American taxpayers.

The first Tax Watch white paper, Will the IRS Silence Free Speech in 2016?, warns that non-profit organizations such as advocacy groups, educational institutions, labor unions, and business leagues are in danger of losing their free speech protections.

A new rule proposed by the IRS could redefine protected speech such as news reporting and issue advocacy as “electioneering,” effectively gagging many non-profit organizations.

Despite the bright-line test established by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo, this proposed rule threatens the tax status of nonprofit organizations that engage in constitutionally protected activities, such as voter registration drives, hosting candidate forums, or producing candidate report cards.

TRI warns that the rule is likely to be finalized once a provision in H.R. 2029, which prohibits the IRS from using any of its funding to finalize standards for approving 501(c)(4) nonprofit status, expires on September 30, 2016.

The Institute’s report concludes that without a permanent Congressional remedy that affirms the meaning of political activity for nonprofit organizations, free speech could be compromised as soon as October 1st, 2016.

“Even in the Citizens United case, the meaning of political activity was not in dispute.  This new rule, however, would be a legal nightmare for the more than 1 million non-profit organizations in America, and it could protect incumbent politicians from the important public scrutiny that nonprofits can provide,” said Dan Johnson, Executive Director of the Tax Revolution Institute.

The complete report is available to the public at, where TRI will host further research, news, and commentary.  Additionally, TRI will canvass the public landscape to gather first-hand accounts of IRS misconduct and engage directly with citizens through seminars, conferences, town halls, policy papers and community meetings. “We want to empower people who feel that they have no voice,” said Johnson. “They will finally be heard.”


Categories: Non Profit, Political Corruption, Law

Tags: 501c3, corruption, IRS, law, non-profit, nonprofit, not for profit, politics, tax reform, tax revolution, tax watch