IRS OKs parameters for Texas tea party case

The IRS said Tuesday it has reached an agreement on guidelines for how to determine whether the Texas Patriots Tea Party should be granted nonprofit status, the Washington Times reported.

The agreement -- roughly eight years in the making -- does not guarantee the conservative group’s nonprofit application will be approved or declined.

The group, known as TPTP,  will have to answer questions about political candidates and educational speakers invited to events. But the IRS said the words “tea party” will not factor in its decision, nor will the political beliefs of the individuals in the organization.

In 2015, a bipartisan review from the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee found management flaws at the IRS contributed to a “dysfunctional culture” that allowed agents to mistreat conservative groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.

The American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the IRS on behalf of the Albuquerque Tea Party in New Mexico and other conservative groups whose requests for tax-exempt status seemed to be put on hold during the Obama administration.

The Albuquerque group recently received tax-exempt status.

“This does provide a path forward for TPTP,” Edward Greim, a lawyer representing the group, as well as hundreds of other tea party organizations that have banded together in a class-action lawsuit against the IRS told the Times. “We will be watching the IRS closely to ensure that TPTP does in fact receive fair processing.”

Between 2009 and 2013, about 500 mostly conservative groups that filed for tax-exempt status found their applications under strict scrutiny by the IRS based on their assumed political affiliation, reported the Times. They were even singled out if the organizations used the words such as “tea party” or “patriots,” according to investigators.

Kevin Brady, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to re-open the investigation into Lois Lerner for her alleged role in targeting conservative groups who applied for tax-exempt status. Lerner headed the division that processes applications for tax-exempt status at the time and has since retired.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice cleared Lerner of any charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.