Good News: IRS Set to Water Down Newly Proposed Free Speech Regulation

Katie Pavlich

4/15/2014 8:30:00 AM - Katie Pavlich

Shortly after former IRS Director of Tax Exempt Groups Lois Lerner admitted last year that her agency had been inappropriately targeting conservative organizations, a new set of rules were proposed that would make what the IRS did to tea party groups legal and would limit the free speech of tax-exempt groups across the political spectrum.The rules specifically define "candidate related activity" as voter registration, candidate forums and debates, distribution of voter guides, discussion of incumbent voting records, simply referencing the names of candidates during meetings and more.


During the public commenting period, a record breaking 150,000 people left comment strongly suggesting the rule be completely thrown out. Conservative groups like the Tea Party Patriots and liberal groups like the ACLU are both opposed to this type of regulation on the free speech of tax-exempt groups.

Now, IRS head John Koskinen plans to rewrite the previously proposed rules and will open up another public comment period once they are finished.

He said the new rule would take into account backlash from conservative Tea Party groups as well as some liberal advocacy organizations that the agency's proposal – intended to address concerns that the tax-exempt groups were engaged in partisan warfare – would bar, even voter education and registration programs.

He was interviewed on the eve of Tax Day, the April 15 deadline for Americans to file their returns.

"I think we have to take all of that into consideration," Koskinen told the weekly video newsmaker series. "There are very thoughtful comments and concerns, and one of the questions that has evoked a lot of comment is, once you define what political activity is, to what organizations should it apply in the 501(c) context and how much of it should be allowed? All of that is going to be very important."


Last week Koskinen faced tough criticism Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Orrin Hatch for failing to kill of the newly proposed rules faster.The new regulation has also prompted calls for tax reform on Capitol Hill.