According to the Wall Street Journal, the Internal Revenue Service unit under fire for its reviews of conservative organizations has a long history of targeting groups with extra scrutiny, including foreclosure-assistance charities, credit-counseling services and New York Jewish charities, interviews with current and former employees show.
The clustering model has been used officially and unofficially for years, and IRS officials called it "centralization." In some cases, it was facilitated by a "Be On The Lookout" Excel spreadsheet, which flagged groups that could be problematic or simply were growing fast in numbers, according to a document released by Congress. The IRS's questionable handling of the tea-party cases follows a long line of other groups selected for extra scrutiny.
In the mid-2000s, the IRS revoked or terminated the tax-exempt status of more than a dozen credit-counseling firms after finding they operated as businesses that weren't providing counseling or education. The agency developed a more stringent process for reviewing applications in the years following, including guidelines that advised IRS workers to seek to learn whether counselors collected complete financial information.
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