Earlier this month, S. 1728, the “Access to Court Challenges for Exempt Status Seekers (ACCESS) Act” was introduced by Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.). S. 1728 will rein in the out-of-control IRS by granting protections to social welfare groups seeking 501 (c)(4) status during the application process. ATR supports this legislation and urges all members of the Senate to vote for and support this important legislation.

Currently, the IRS has total discretion to approve or deny the application of a group seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. In light of revelations that the IRS inappropriately targeted conservative groups over several years, it is clear that this authority was abused. Conservative groups waited as long as two years for the IRS to act on their applications and faced far greater scrutiny than their liberal counterparts.

The ACCESS Act will put a stop to this by ensuring organizations seeking tax-exempt status are treated fairly regardless of political affiliation. Specifically, it gives nonprofits seeking 501(c)(4) status the ability to advocate for themselves in Tax Court if the IRS takes longer than nine months to approve their application. This process is already available to organizations applying for 501(c)(3) charity or foundation status, and so affording social welfare groups this same protection against bureaucratic obstruction should be a common-sense proposal to all. By passing the ACCESS Act, Congress will ensure social welfare groups applying for non-profit status receive fair treatment during their application process.

In the wake of the IRS targeting conservative 501 (c)(4) applicants with improper scrutiny, it is clear that stronger protections for applicants are needed. The ACCESS Act will create a fairer, more streamlined application system for non-profits and will put a stop to the IRS processing social welfare applications based on political affiliation.