MAY 7, 2019
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department and IRS, arguing that the agencies have failed to respond to information requests about their guidance reducing donor disclosure requirements for certain tax-exempt groups.
“My office depends on these critical donor disclosure forms to be able to adequately oversee non-profit organizations in New York,” said James, who filed the suit alongside New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D).
“Not only was this policy change made without notice, the Treasury and the IRS are now refusing to comply with the law to release information about the rationale for these changes. No one is above the law – not even the federal government – and we will use every tool to ensure they comply with these regulations to provide transparency and accountability.”
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is the latest example of Democratic state attorneys general suing the Trump administration. James just took office at the beginning of the year and has quickly made it clear that she’s going to aggressively pursue legal action against the president’s business dealings and policies.
Treasury and the IRS in July released guidance that eliminates a requirement for certain tax-exempt groups to provide the names and addresses of major donors on annual forms. Groups that no longer have to include this information on forms include 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations such as the National Rifle Association and American Civil Liberties Union, labor unions and chambers of commerce.
The Trump administration and many congressional Republicans have said that the guidance helps to protect taxpayers’ privacy and prevent taxpayers for being targeted for their political beliefs.
But Democrats in Congress have criticized the guidance, saying that it makes it easier for foreign governments to influence U.S. politics through donations to “dark money” groups.
In October, the New York and New Jersey attorneys general filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking for information about the origins and development of the guidance. They noted that the guidance has a direct impact on state filing requirements for tax-exempt groups operating in their states.
The IRS so far has only partially produced the information that the attorneys general have requested. The attorneys general haven’t had any independent communication with Treasury’s FOIA office since October, according to the lawsuit.
The New York and New Jersey attorneys general are asking the court to order Treasury and the IRS to promptly disclose all records that are relevant to the FOIA requests.
An IRS spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit because it’s pending litigation.