IRS Official Involved in Tax-Exempt Targeting Receives Promotion

The IRS leader who oversaw the Cincinnati office that was the center of the IRS’ targeting of conservative organizations for tax-exempt status has been promoted.

Cindy Thomas, who has worked for the IRS for 35 years, is now a member of the senior technical advisor team for the Director of Exempt Organizations.  This team is responsible for how the IRS selects and reviews organizations that apply to the IRS for tax-exempt status.

Sharon Light previously held the role now filed by Thomas.  Light is the sixth senior leader of the IRS to leave the agency in light of the scandal involving the targeting of Tea Party and other conservative organizations who had applied to receive tax-exempt status.  Light was an advisor to Lois Lerner, who is believed to have been one of the primary IRS leaders responsible for the inappropriate and illegal targeting.

According to Kenneth Corbin with the IRS, “[Light has] accepted a position with the American Cancer Society, leaving a critical vacancy in the Senior Technical Adviser team for the Director of Exempt Organizations.  Cindy brings a strong background in [Exempt Organization] Determinations and the history of the organization.  And, since she is located in Cincinnati, she will provide a voice for the process and challenges faced in determinations work.”

The House Oversight Committee is continuing its investigation into the IRS’ targeting of conservative organizations, an investigation that has lasted for three months to date.  The investigation relates to delays the IRS appears to have intentionally caused in the application process of conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status.  These delays appear to have largely occurred during an election year, therefore undermining the ability of the organizations to effectively provide support to candidates running against President Obama in the 2012 Presidential election.  Some conservative organizations have provided evidence showing the application process took them over two years to complete.

Last week, Darrell Issa, who is the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, requested that the Federal Election Commission provide to the committee all electronic communication between the FEC and the IRS over the previous five years.  This request appears to indicate the FEC may have had knowledge of and possibly even colluded with the IRS in the targeting of conservative organizations.

The request was made after the House Oversight Committee identified a series of at least six separate messages between the IRS and the FEC that culminated in an offer by the IRS to share confidential information with the FEC about certain conservative organizations.  Each of those six messages involved Lois Lerner as either the sender or one of the recipients of the messages.  The messages also involved at least one attorney with the FEC.

The FEC attorney noted in the exchange that his organization could not ask for certain specific information about the identified organizations who were seeking tax-exempt status.  Lerner in response offered to help provide that information.

The House Oversight Committee previously has subpoenaed the Treasury Department for records related to the scandal, after the Treasury Department was initially slow to respond to requests for documents.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.