Tainted IRS: The federal tax agency must operate free of politics

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It's appalling that the Internal Revenue Service, between 2010 and 2012, focused special, critical attention on Tea Party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

The IRS, along with the FBI, CIA and Department of Justice, are organs of the federal government from which Americans expect especially fair, evenhanded, nonpolitical treatment. The IRS is particularly important since it is the agency that collects federal tax payments from individuals, businesses and other organizations that provide an important part of the revenue stream which finances the government's activities.

Most income taxes are paid voluntarily, largely without IRS prodding or intervention, based on the concept of good citizenship. Some cases, however, require IRS scrutiny, which should be rendered equitably and free of political motivation.

The political cast on the IRS' dealings revealed by the discriminatory treatment of conservative organizations puts this revenue stream at risk, particularly in the spring when some Americans are still in the process of paying taxes. It also tarnishes the integrity of the federal tax agency.

Regardless of a group's political orientation and whether it espouses the aims of the Tea Party, its views should not determine how it is treated by the IRS for tax collection or tax exemption purposes. The agency must be evenhanded in its treatment and look for people and organizations in violation of America's tax laws without directing closer attention to the right or left end of the spectrum.

President Barack Obama said Monday that he found the IRS practices "outrageous" and "contrary to our traditions." The Justice Department yesterday announced a criminal investigation into the matter.

Americans are sick of the overall politicization of government, but this tainted action by the IRS was disgraceful.

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