IRS to Z Street

IRS to Jewish group: ‘Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?’


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.

“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.'”

The IRS can deny tax exempt status to groups that work against “established public policy,” a precedent established in its denial of a tax exemption to Bob Jones University over racial discrimination, and Z Street is suggesting that the IRS has begun applying some such policy to pro-Israel groups. The State Department has complained of tax exempt contributions to groups that fund weapons and equipment for West Bank settlers, which Z Street co-founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus said Z Street has never come close to doing.

“Given that we have fallen within this net, how big is the net?” she asked.

The agent’s question was contained in correspondence with “a Jewish religious organization” with no stated position on Israel, Z Street says in its court filing. The group’s tax adviser, Z Street says, shared the correspondence with Z Street. Z Street does not know the name of the group and may subpoena the tax adviser, who is no longer cooperating with them, for more information, Marcus said.

Several experts on non-profit tax law said the questions to the organization were unusual, at best, though they were also skeptical of the claim that the IRS is specifically targeting pro-Israel groups.

“The claims go far beyond what should be the IRS’s role,” said Paul Caron a University of Cincinnati law professor and the author of TaxProf Blog.

Ellen Aprill, a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles said the second question was “appropriate” in the context of an application seeking a tax exemption on religious grounds.

“The first one is not the way I would want any of my agents to do it,” she said.

Former I.R.S. Commissioner Sheldon Cohen said he was skeptical of Z Street’s motives in its high-profile lawsuit, rather than pursuing its concerns in tax court.

“They were hardly into the process when they screamed rape – nobody lifted the dress yet,” he said, noting that 501(c)3 groups can’t advocate for political positions.

But he called the specific questions “unusual.”

“I’ve never seen that kind of inquiry,” he said.

And Ofer Lion, a California tax lawyer, said he thought the question was probably the work of a misguided agent.

“People who work in the field and have done a lot of these applications have seen these bizarre questions shot back at them more than once,” he said.

Z Street maintains, however, that the questions are more evidence of a broader policy targeting pro-Israel groups. The organization claims that the agency is “improperly considering the political viewpoint of applicants” and engaging in “clear viewpoint discrimination.”

The IRS has sought to dismiss Z Street’s claim on technical grounds. A spokesman said he couldn’t immediately comment on the new filing; in August, a spokesman said he couldn’t comment on an ongoing case.

November 27, 2010 | 13 Comments »

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  1. email

    If you can pick up “Stealth Jihad” or “Sharia – ….. Plan B II,” you’ll see that Muslim charity is to their own only, as conditioned by their Koran.

    Furthermore, and probably any book will show you that Muslim mosques and so-called communith centers are used primarily for politicking…their religion is not religion only, but a culture, a way of life, a way of commiting jihad (holy war). Also read “Because they hate,” by Brigitte Gabriel.

    So, they are taking advantage of everything our country has to offer, just as Islam is doing in countries of Europe, breaking down their monetary system, and bankrupting them.

  2. I saw this topic on another site and thought I’d come here one time to make comment and possibly to educate.

    I learned that IRS auditors ask leading questions to ferret out information. If, for instance, an auditor wishes to know if a small, home- based business uses their computer system 100% for business, the auditor just won’t come out and ask, “Do you use your system 100% for business?”
    No, the auditor will ask instead, “I bet your kids really like that speed of your system, don’t they?” And then, if the person being audited replies, “Oh, yes, my kid’s play this cool game on there. It keeps them busy while I do my work. That computer is a good babysitter.”

    The auditor will then say, “I’m sorry, but your computer deduction is disallowed due to the fact that it is listed property and this requires that a small, home-based business use their listed property 100% for business for this cost to be deductible.”

    So, when I see the IRS asking leading questions of tax-exempt applying organizations, I’m not so stupid as to not see the underlying reason for such questions. The auditor, or IRS, is REALLY asking the tax-exempt applying organization….”Are you going to be prompting a political agenda?” An organization seeking tax-exempt status cannot be prompting politics one way or the other. The organization will be turned down because tax-exempt laws say no political promotion…period.

    Hey, this works two ways, too! Recently, in our community, yet another mosque was requesting conditional use permits and then, of course, they’d be looking for tax-exempt status. It is a free country, the USA. We have freedom of religion. People can worship however they wish here. When a person worships, they don’t talk politics, therefore, this “church” should be tax-exempt.

    But, listen to this… the past ten years, the Muslim religion has mushroomed their presence in our USA country to about 1,900 mosques.
    In the year 2000, there were only about 1,200 mosques. This building of mosques is happening at a rate of about 70 per year…..ALL TAX-Exempt.

    And not just a worship site is being built. They are requesting permits for “community centers.” These they wish to be also a separate, tax-exempt organization. What else is interesting is the fact the actual worship portion of the endeavors are very small, while the community center portions are the major portion. This, to me anyway, says that maybe Muslims aren’t really interested in the worship portion at all, but instead are interested in the tax shelter these freedom of religion laws can provide? This could very well be.

    But there is also another huge problem with these endeavors—that I see anyway. Definitions used within the Muslim religion for words used in the tax-exempt law, are DIFFERENT from each other.

    For instance, the word Charity. To Muslims charity begins at home and stay at home. For Christians charity is gushed out all over the place to anyone and anything. I saw online a Muslim administrator of a clinic-type community center asking if she could use money from the mosque to pay a doctor who administered health care to a non-Muslim patient. The answer from the Imam was, “NO.” Mosque money is to be used ONLY for fellow Muslims. So what had to happened so that this administrator could pay her doctor? I think it probably would have had to have been something like what happened in a for-profit business….invoices and payments. Yet….this is all tax-exempt?

    So, when this PA organization complains how they are all being discriminated against…..THINK about what the long-range will be! What works for one religion…will work for another. The precedents established might come back on the butt side and haunt.

    The IRS is wise to the slights that political-based organizations use.

    It is in my opinion, that the IRS will save the Christian-based country of USA from take-over of Islamic forces. So don’t knock what this agency is up to. These are the only laws that can combat the misuse of freedom of religion laws.

  3. While I definitely do not consider the Obama administration to be either for or fair to Israel, a concerted anti-Israel effort or conspiracy is probably not the direct cause for the improper IRS handling of this case. All to typically a lower or mid-level individual puts into action that person’s interpretation of what superiors would want. The superiors should know better and suppress their unprofessional own improper activities. Among the employees such restraint on acting out their interpretations or personal biases all to frequently is lacking.

    This does not absolve higher ups from creating the improper atmosphere.

    Publicly exposing improper actions is the way to correct injustices and help prevent future occurances.

  4. Maybe those liberal Jewish brothers and sisters that voted for Obama in ’08 have seen him for the liar he is and will help oust him in ’12.
    My thinking tells me Obama is 100% behind this attack on Z Street.

  5. And Ofer Lion, a California tax lawyer, said he thought the question was probably the work of a misguided agent.

    “People who work in the field and have done a lot of these applications have seen these bizarre questions shot back at them more than once,” he said.

    As I understand it, there has been more than one “misguided agent” involved in this matter.

    I’m embarrassed to admit that Ofer Lion is a close relative and from an Israeli family. His wife is a writer/editor for the LA Times (she probably connected him to Ben Smith for this story). They are both Obama supporters.

  6. Bill,

    We have taken the IRS to court – that’s what the article is about! And there are all kinds of whackjob organizations with 501(c)(3) status like the ISM and CAIR…and J Street, but that isn’t something this is appropriately raised at least at this stage in the lawsuit.

    And how about what a piggish statement from Sheldon Cohen, former IRS commissioner? Not only is he offensive, but the issue raised in our case is a constitutional one, so he really does not know what he is talking about – since when is anyone supposed to wait more than a minute when you find out your constitutional rights are being violated before complaining about it?

    Cpa, I’d be eternally grateful if you would contact me via email.

  7. Is anyone looking into J Street’s connections with Islamic countries, with Islamic financing, with connections to acknowledged terrorist groups, such as Hamas? Then we can further investigate the Catholic Churches’ connections to the Vatican in Italy.

  8. Bill, if I may suggest, most respectfully, perhaps you could let know about this. They may not have looked into that area.

  9. The policies of all American Governments and especially the Obama government has always been anti-Semitic. The Land of Israel and primarily Those historical and Biblical parts Y & S especially Hebron, The Temple mount and Jerusalem as a whole is part and parcel of core Judaism. Not recognizing the Jewish claim is one thing but to actively promote and tirelessly seek to subvert our control over those territories and places while supporting a non peoples claim to them is the height of anti Judaism. Without the Land of Israel there is no Judaism and any Jew who claims otherwise is an ignoramus at best and a self-Jew Hater at worst..

    Obama my be the worst of American leaders for America and maybe even for Israel but as an Israeli I don’t want to mix apples and oranges. What is good or bad for America does not necessarily need to resonate or concern us here but only how one leader or another impacts pro or con with our interests. Obamacare for example may be bad for America but it’s not my concern. Bush selling 30 billion worth of the most modern American produced weapons to the Saudis only to be topped by Obama with another 60 billion is my concern.

    Keeping Pollard imprisoned so long is antisemitic and that traverses both right and left in America, Republican and Democratic presidents.

    Where Israel is concerned I don’t buy into one political stream being more or less beneficent to Israel. Looking back both sides have been quite consistent when it came to Israel. Mostly not positive.

  10. People, we need to get a strong lobby of fair-minded people who will fight such Orwellien measures. The MSM will NOT be on our side and we need to stay away from people like IRS Commissioner Sheldon Cohen and Mayor Bloomberg of NYC. If you click-onto Tundra Tabloids, you’ll see this “Death throes of free speech in Europe begin tomorrow morning…Tundra Tabloids” and
    “ELISABETH SABADITSCH-WOLFF(of Denmark): WE ARE BEING SYSTEMATICALLY SILENCED, THIS IS OUR TIME”. Obama is a scoundrel but the American people are a proud and strong people. They have started to awaken.

  11. Former IRS Commisioner Sheldon Cohen,as a Jew, should be ashamed of himself defending the Administration’s anti Israel policy. Is this any different then saying Jews shouldn’t build homes in their own capital? It’s about time that people recognized where Obama came from and who he is,

  12. Was shocked to read this article. The agent Dornette is someone we worked with. A fact, that IRS policy has completely changed regarding Jewish organizations. We see with every inquiry.

    It is scary.

    We had a case that was verbally approved by a given agent
    And then pulled away for additional questions
    Br mrs Dornette. With no explanation.


  13. It would not surprise me that this is intentional; after all this admin is the most hostile, anti-jewish bunch ever elected.
    I hope that the same measures are taken against muslims as well,such as Rauf, claiming tax-exempt for their 1bdr apartment in NY, because 500 people supposedly pray there. We all know that is a bunch of crap.