DOJ Settles With Pro-Israel Group Over IRS Targeting Allegations

Alexander J. Segal's picture

Here, I will post about an interesting conclusion to a non-immigration story.

On February 1, 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it has entered into a settlement agreement with Z Street, a pro-Israel non-profit organization, over alleged improper targeting by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [PDF version].

Z Street had applied for tax-exempt status from the IRS. Z Street alleged that the IRS had subjected the tax-exempt status applications of Z Street and other pro-Israel non-profit organizations to heightened scrutiny based on their pro-Israel advocacy. In the settlement agreement, which has been submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for approval, the IRS apologizes to Z Street for the delayed processing of its application for tax-exempt status. You may read the proposed settlement agreement here: [PDF version].

Tax-Exempt Status

The Z Street settlement is the last in a series of settlements reached between the DOJ and various non-profit groups over allegations of improper treatment by the IRS of tax-exempt applications on the basis of political viewpoint. The District Court for the District of Columbia recently approved similar settlement agreements in Linchpins of Liberty v. United States and True the Vote v. IRS. On October 26, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the settlement agreements in the Linchpins of Liberty case and in NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. Internal Revenue Service (United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio) [PDF version]. On that occasion, Attorney General Sessions stated: “There is no excuse for this conduct. Hundreds of organizations were affected by these actions, and they deserve an apology from the IRS. We hope that today's settlement makes clear that this abuse of power will not be tolerated.”

The allegations brought by Z Street are troubling, and it is encouraging to see the DOJ finally treat them and similar allegations with the seriousness that they deserve. The First Amendment exists in part to prohibit the federal government from engaging in viewpoint-based discrimination of lawful speech. The IRS's alleged conduct would have been troubling regardless of the views it singled out for extra-legal scrutiny, but it is all the more troubling that the majority of the targeted views in recent years consistently ran contrary to the views held by the administration in office at the time. I hope that the spate of settlement agreements will set the precedent going forward that it is categorically unacceptable for the IRS and other federal agencies to discriminate on the basis of disfavoring lawful speech when adjudicating applications such as those for tax-exempt status, regardless of the speech in question.

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