In House testimony Friday, former Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller explained that the IRS mistakes in handling applications for non-profit status from tea party groups were due, in large part, to a flood of applications following the Citizens United decision. Miller said the targeting was a botched attempt to centralize the process to account for the increased workload. There were fewer applications in 2010, when the IRS began targeting conservative groups, than the year before, however.
In 2009, before IRS began targeting tea party organizations, 1,751 groups applied for 501 (c)4 status. That number dropped in 2010 to 1,735. In fact, applications were down across all areas in the Tax Exempt division’s jurisdiction. So, they had more staff available for processing. While the number of applications did increase in 2011 and 2012, there was no increase in applications when the IRS began isolating tea party groups.
Moreover, the IRS reportedly abandoned the targeting in early 2012. It presumably had little trouble handling the increased number of applicants in advance of the 2012 election.
For whatever reason the IRS chose to target tea party organizations for special scrutiny, it wasn’t due to a flood of new applications.