Federal judges blast IRS in hearing on pro-Israel group’s tax-exempt status

IRS headquarters in Washington, DC. Credit: Internal Revenue Service.

(JNS.org) Judges for the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals blasted the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during a hearing in a case on the tax-exempt status of a pro-Israel organization.

Z Street sued the IRS in 2010, alleging that the agency singled it out for extra review due its pro-Israel views when the group applied for tax-exempt status. Z Street said it was told by the IRS that the extra review applies to groups that are “connected with Israel… to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the administration’s public policies.”

During a May 4 hearing, a three-judge panel of Merrick Garland, David Tatel, and David Sentelle heavily criticized the U.S. government’s lawyer, Teresa McLaughlin. Sentelle told her, “They (Z Street) are not in court seeking to restrain the assessment or collection of a tax, they are in court seeking a constitutionally fair process,” the Wall Street Journal reported

The government argued that organizations may sue the IRS only if they don’t receive a response to their grievance from the agency for 270 days.

“You don’t really mean that, right? Because the next couple words would be the IRS is free to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint, religion, race [for 270 days]. You don’t actually think that?” Judge Garland said. “Imagine the IRS announces today a policy that says as follows: No application by a Jewish group or an African-American group will be considered until one day short of the period under the statute… Is it your view that that cannot be challenged?”

The judge went on to tell the government lawyer to “ask your superiors” if the government is free to “unconstitutionally discriminate” against its citizens for 270 days. 

Posted on May 7, 2015 .