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Fact Check: Uptick Came After Targeting Began

June 04, 2013

Throughout the investigation into the IRS targeting conservative groups, many misleading statements have been made asserting that the uptick of 501 (c)(4) applications caused the targeting, which began in March 2010.  However, the data and timeline below from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s report show that there was actually a decrease in applications in 2010.

Number of Applications for I.R.C §§ 501(c)(3)–(6) Tax-Exempt Status Received by the IRS Fiscal Year

  501(c)(3)  501(c)(4)
501(c)(5)  501(c)(6)
Total (by year)
2009 65,179
1,751 543
1,828 69,301
2010 59,486 1,735 290 1,637 63,148
2011 58,712 2,265 409 1,836 63,222
2012 66,543 3,357 1,081 2,338 73,319

Note: Fiscal year data runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 of any given year.

The Washington Post Fact Check evaluated the same claim made by Lois Lerner, the IRS’s director of exempt organizations, and awarded the statement four Pinocchios.  They went on to note that, “[t]he real jump did not come until 2011, long after the targeting of conservative groups had been implemented.” additionally debunked the claim: “Lerner cited a heavy workload as a reason for developing the inappropriate criteria. In her May 10 conference call with reporters, Lerner said applications for 501(c)(4) nonprofit status had ‘more than doubled,’ from 1,500 in 2010 to over 3,400 in 2012….IRS records show there was an increase over time, but neither Lerner nor Miller provided evidence that there was a significant spike less than two months after the Citizens United decision when the IRS first started to single out tea party and other conservative groups by name for review.”