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IRS cleared – Audits not political, study says

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The Internal Revenue Service was not motivated by politics in audits it conducted of conservative groups, according to a long-awaited study by Congress, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The study was prompted by several groups, including the Western Journalism Center in Fair Oaks, Calif., and the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., which complained the IRS was singling them out for audits questioning their tax-free status, the Journal says.

The groups suspected the officials in Congress or the White House, acting on the basis of political considerations, pushed for an IRS probe. They also believed the IRS gladly investigated.

Congress asked its Joint Committee on Taxation for the report three years ago.

The findings generally rebut the charge that the IRS acted improperly, a congressional source told the Journal.

But the source also says the report suggests that some officials in the Clinton administration tried improperly, and unsuccessfully, to get taxpayer information from the IRS.

The source characterized the incidents as minor, and said that no one received taxpayer data that he or she should not have received.

Officials at the IRS and Treasury Department declined to comment on the report. A White House spokesman did not provide immediate comment on the suggestion that an administration official might have requested information that is protected.

But Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation in Herndon, Va., said he doubted the report’s conclusions that the IRS was blameless.

“I think it’s clear that it takes two to tango – that is, that if the White House and members of Congress didn’t think the IRS was going to be responsive, why are they making the inquiries,” he told the Journal.

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