In a friend of the court brief filed today with the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s Taxpayer Defense Center argues that California’s attempt to compel charities to disclose private donor information is at odds with longstanding donor privacy protections, unnecessary for tax administration, and a violation of the First Amendment.
The case, which will be argued this spring, involves a demand by then-Attorney General of California Kamala Harris in 2010 that non-profit organizations seeking to solicit donations in California first provide her office with IRS Form 990 Schedule B, an obscure tax form that lists donors.
“After Nixon misused tax information for political purposes, Congress enacted stringent privacy protections on tax information,” said Joe Bishop-Henchman, NTUF vice president and co-author of the brief. “Our brief explains why this information is neither precise nor effective for legitimate tax administration purposes, to the extent that the IRS has for years been trying to get rid of the form altogether.”
The brief also rebuts an argument put forth by the United States government that charities give up constitutional rights as a condition of accepting tax-exempt status. Instead, the brief argues, Congress cannot insist on a funding condition that entirely restricts a First Amendment right. The brief asks the Court to clarify a 1983 decision, Regan v. Taxation With Representation, that the United States relied on for its argument.
NTUF filed the brief jointly with the Public Policy Legal Institute. The brief argues that disclosures imperil the voluntary compliance that is a hallmark of the U.S. tax system:
“What happens to taxpayer confidence when a State uses federal tax information in a way that federal law would not permit? Most taxpayers will likely not distinguish between a State official revealing information on a federal tax form and a federal official doing so, since the effect on privacy in an Internet era would likely be the same. It risks slaying the voluntary tax compliance goose that lays the golden eggs.”
NTUF joined with PPLI for the brief in Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra and Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra, Case Nos. 19-251 & 19-255.
NTUF’s Taxpayer Defense Center was established in 2020 as a project focused on protecting taxpayer rights through public-interest litigation.
To discuss the case and the NTUF joint amicus brief with Joe Bishop-Henchman, please contact Kevin Glass, NTUF Vice President of Communications, at 703-299-8670 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.