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The fact that some Republican activists have had their taxes audited is not at all scandalous

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Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, whose skillful way with words usually exceeds her grasp of the facts, waxed indignant the other day over four cases in which conservative activists were targeted for tax audits.

It’s a scandal, Noonan averred.

Well, piffle!

Nate Silver, one of the best numbers-crunchers extant, rebuts Noonan’s column HERE:

Ms. Noonan is surely correct that many conservative taxpayers were audited. In fact, based on some simple math that I’ll present in a moment, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of Mitt Romney voters were selected for an audit in 2012.

However, it’s also likely that hundreds of thousands of Mr. Obama’s supporters were audited. Although the percentage of taxpayers who are audited is relatively low — about 1 percent — the number of taxpayers in the United States is so large that this still yields well more than a million audits every year, across the political spectrum.

The probability of being audited is highest for high-income taxpayers — about 12 percent of individuals who made more than $1 million were audited in 2012…

I’ve estimated the number of taxpayers in each income group who were audited in 2012, as derived from statistics in the I.R.S.’s 2012 Data Book. It is also possible to estimate how many Mitt Romney and Barack Obama voters would have been audited last year. The calculation assumes that an individual’s chance of being audited was related to their income, but not to their political views.

I estimate the number of voters in each income bracket from the 2012 Current Population Survey. I then estimate the share of the vote in each income bracket that went to Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama based on last year’s national exit poll….

This results in an estimate that about 380,000 of Mr. Romney’s voters were audited last year, as were about 480,000 of Mr. Obama’s voters.

To be clear, this calculation assumes that individuals’ risk of being audited is independent of their political views. In fact, there is no way to know exactly how many supporters of each candidate were chosen for an audit — nor could there be, since individual-level voting records and audit records are private.

The point is, however, that even with no political targeting at all, hundreds of thousands of conservative voters would have been chosen for audits in the I.R.S.’s normal course of business. Among these hundreds of thousands of voters, thousands would undoubtedly have gone beyond merely voting to become political activists.

The fact that Ms. Noonan has identified four conservatives from that group of thousands provides no evidence at all toward her hypothesis. Nor would it tell us very much if dozens or even hundreds of conservative activists disclosed that they had been audited. This is exactly what you would expect in a country where there are 1.5 million audits every year.

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12 Comments

  1. Steverino

    Always remember Noonan works for Murdoch so accuracy is not important. Her gossip column is more appropriate for Midwest Farmer Singles.

  2. Brian Opsahl

    The fact that Mitt Romney would not show his income tax returns also the fact that guys like him hide there money in overseas accounts and special tax shelters makes them obviously a target as they should be…right…why wouldn’t they…sinse they are the biggest cheets with the most to gain…I would hope that the IRS would go after anti-Americans like that…

  3. Ted Biondo

    The scandal isn’t about being audited, Pat,where you are now suggestng that class warfare now enter the IRS scandal. It’s about conservative groups not being granted exempt status for years, especially right before last year’s election, while liberal groups were waived through without a hassle. Singling out people and groups because they have different views than those in Power is against the law and was part of the reason Nixon quit. Obama doesn’t have any standards for following the law, so we will have to impeach him. I’m not sure we should do it right away though, he might help the conservatives retake the Senate and together the Congress could stop funding for the costly Obamacare. BTW, the IRS may have just blown their mandate to run Obamacare, too. These people are so incompetent they don’t even know when they have control – but thety are losing it, thank GOD!

  4. Robert

    I don’t understand this quote. Shouldn’t it read “Is it outrageous” instead of “It’s outrageous”…

    “It’s outrageous that the IRS went after these small tea party groups when Karl Rove is out there saying that he wants to use these groups to change the outcome of the election,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said on ABC’s “This Week.”

    Apparently Karl Rove believes the Democrats have exploited this tax category for decades with groups like The Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and the NAACP. Only thing is I can see how the groups he mentioned serve as a social service but what I don’t understand is what social services are these Tea Party groups going to offer? Do we have any info on the charters and mission statements of these Tea Party groups, with detail please?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/karl-rove-irs_n_3302754.html

  5. Robert

    BTW Ted, apparently from the latest polls, Obama hasn’t been harmed by all this noise coming from the Republicans. I think and hope that all the pettiness we are seeing coming from the right, with every bit of it being with one objective, to hobble and destroy Obama’s presidency, is met at the polls with overwhelming votes against the Republican party.

    If we have more Elizabeth Warren types run for office, whose goal is to do the peoples business instead of be mouthpieces for their largest corporate donors, I’d say its very possible the Repubs will lose both houses. But when you have a base of a party, that finds attractive anybody who appeals to their prejudices and hatred and in the name of God and Jesus, over the business of running an effective government, we get what we see today.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/obama-approval-rating_n_3302580.html

  6. Robert

    If I saw a NFP group started by people aligned with the Tea Party called the, NAAWP , it would make more sense that they are in place to help White people with legal assistance and all the things the NAACP does, thus having a 501c3/4 status. But I just don’t understand what social service these conservative groups are offering. If a group like the NAACP can exist, why can’t a NAAWP and get the same respect?

    We see that with the ACLU and ACLJ, why not NAACP and NAAWP and NAAMP and NAALP?

    Wouldn’t all be offering social services for their target members and audience?

  7. Steverin

    Robert, the conservative groups offer support to corporations and wealthy individuals who are trying to control government and pay little or no tax. I guess that meets the broad definition of social welfare.

  8. Robert

    As usual the comedy shows get it better and more succinctly than the MSM news networks. The conservatives name their NFP’s after a group that historically was anti-tax and anti-govt and then they wonder why they were targeted for extra review? Really? And as Michael Moore says in a different video, where the IRS when it comes to GE not paying any taxes?

    One more thing, this is a big country. Are there only IRS offices that review these kinds of applications in just a few areas of the country, because it seems that only a few places were supposedly responsible for this extra level of review. Are applications for NFP 501 categories all sent to just one or two offices?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/snl-seth-meyers-amy-poehler-ask-irs-really_n_3302661.html

  9. Brian Opsahl

    Bush fired several attorneys all because they wouldn’t go after targeted Democrats…nobody put Bush or Rove in jail for that one did they…willy

  10. wilson

    What are you talking about? Not the IRS, and not relevant
    Bush isn’t president, get over it.
    “IRS official Lois Lerner to plead the Fifth at congressional hearing tomorrow”
    Why do you plead the fifth?
    http://hotair.com/archives/2013/05/21/here-we-go-irs-official-lois-lerner-to-plead-the-fifth-at-congressional-hearing-tomorrow/

  11. Robert

    I’d like to see lots of scrutiny for all applicants seeking not for profit status tax free status, including churches. Why wouldn’t every tax paying citizen want that?

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