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IRS seeks volunteers for tax-exempt advisory panel

You remember the Internal Revenue Service's inappropriate targeting of groups seeking tax-exempt status based on the organizations' political leanings, right?

When the word about the clumsy application review process was leaked to the media by now retired IRS executive Lois Lerner in advance of a damaging Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report, Congress jumped right into the middle of the mess.

Republican-led House committees held what seemed like daily hearings on IRS tax-exempt review techniques, particularly as they applied to Tea Party and other conservative groups. Democrats countered with evidence that liberal and progressive groups also got added scrutiny in their efforts to receive the favorable tax treatment.

Well, it's five months later and the fiery rhetoric has died down, supplanted by the idiocy that was the 16-day federal government shutdown and Congressional outrage or apologies about glitches in the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, online enrollment exchanges.

Glowing-embersNow I'm not one to fan flames, especially the dying embers of a primarily politically motivated conflagration.

But I do have some news about how you could help the IRS work out its tax-exempt organization issues.

Tax exempt panel needs new members: The IRS is looking for a few brave citizen volunteers to serve on its Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT).

The Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TE/GE) Division of the IRS deals with around 3 million taxpayers, ranging from small local community organizations and municipalities to major universities, huge pension funds, state governments and participants of complex tax-exempt bond transactions.

These TE/GE "customers" are responsible for more than $8 trillion in assets and pay more than $220 billion in employment tax and income tax withholding.

Exempt organization taxpayers -- this is the group of which Lerner was director -- represent more than 1.6 million tax exempt groups.

ACT members provide an organized public forum for the IRS and representatives who deal with employee plans, exempt organizations, tax-exempt bonds and federal, state, local and Indian tribal governments. Through ACT, the IRS gets regular input on its TE/GE division's administrative policy and procedures.

Applying to ACT: According to the Federal Register notice, ACT has vacancies (the number of openings is in parentheses) in the following customer segments:

  • Employee Plans (two)
  • Exempt Organizations (two)
  • Tax Exempt Bonds (one)
  • Indian Tribal Governments (two)
  • Federal, State and Local Governments (three)
To ensure appropriate balance of membership, the final selection of ACT candidates by the Treasury Secretary will be based on applicants' experience, qualifications and other expertise. One group, however, will not be considered. ACT members cannot be federally registered lobbyists.

Get your application in by Nov. 4. 

You can submit application Form 12339-C, available on the IRS Web site. Or if you prefer, you can send an application letter that includes your name; other name(s) used (e.g., maiden name) and date(s) used; date of birth; city and state of birth; current address; telephone and fax numbers; and email address, if any.

Describe and document your qualifications for membership on ACT. Specify the vacancy for which you wish to be considered. And note that all ACT applicants are subject to FBI background checks (just like I underwent when I was named to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel).

Your application, form or letter, should go to:

Mark J. Kirbabas
Acting Designated Federal Officer
TE/GE Communications and Liaison
SE: T: CL-NCA 679
1111 Constitution Ave. NW.
Washington, DC 20224

You also can fax your application to Kirbabas at (202) 317-8814 (not a toll-free number) or email him at Mark.J.Kirbabas@irs.gov.

If you are selected to join ACT, you'll serve a two-year term that begins June 2014.

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