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IRS says 20 churches under electioneering investigation.

In late October, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it was investigating 20 churches for potential violations of federal tax law that bars non-profits from partisan politics.

The announcement came on the heels of a claim by the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a Religious Right activist, that the IRS had issued a formal ruling that houses of worship could not pray for President George W. Bush's re-election, the Religion News Service (RNS) reported.

An IRS spokeswoman told the RNS that the tax agency had issued no such ruling or made any changes to its guidelines prohibiting houses of worship and other non-profits from engaging in partisan politics. In a written statement, the agency revealed that it is investigating more than 60 situations where non-profit groups--about a third of them houses of worship--may have run afoul of the tax code's no-politicking rule.

The statement from IRS Commissioner Mark Everson also noted that its investigations are not politically motivated.

"Career civil servants, not political appointees, make these decisions in a fair, impartial manner," Everson said in the Oct. 29 statement. "Any suggestion that the IRS has tilted its audit activities for political purposes is repugnant and groundless."

Everson declined, citing a federal privacy law, to give any more detail about the investigations.

Earlier in the year, the IRS issued a reminder to non-profits highlighting the tax code regulation barring non-profits, including churches, from using their resources to help elect candidates.
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Title Annotation:In The Capital
Publication:Church & State
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:237
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