The Republican Party of Virginia is filing a complaint with the IRS alleging that 501(c)(3) nonprofit Virginia Excels had violated tax law by engaging in “overt and unambiguous political campaign intervention” to support Terry McAuliffe.
“On September 7, 2021, only 10 days before early voting began, Virginia Excels issued a press release touting its new ‘report’ on eliminating the income tax. The ‘report’ appears to be one of the first statements the organization has ever issued on taxes,” an RPV press release states.
Virginia Excels wrote, “Every four years, Virginia elects a new Governor. Over the years, we’ve studied the difference between good politics and good policy. During our Gubernatorial Elections, we often hear platforms that sound good politically, but have extreme policy consequences. Candidates have flirted with the idea of eliminating the individual income tax; this policy will have a catastrophic impact on public education in the Commonwealth, and will disproportionately impact our historically, disenfranchised communities.”
Virginia Excels did not name any candidates in the report.
The RPV also noted that Virginia Excels’ Executive Director Takein Cooper is the chair of the Prince Edward County Democratic Committee.
“As a 501(c)(3) public charity organization, Virginia Excels cannot devote a ‘substantial part’ of its activities to ‘carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation.’ However, Virginia Excels’ ‘Youth Ambassador Program’ is a primary activity of the organization that focuses on lobbying efforts,” the RPV states.
Cooper told The Virginia Star, “I chaired the Prince Edward Democratic Committee before I joined Virginia Excels in 2018. I’ve made a conscious effort to separate my personal affiliations from my professional role; Virginia Excels works with a diverse group of families from around the Commonwealth, who identify with all ends of the political spectrum.”
He continued, “Virginia Excels thought that it was imperative for Virginians to understand the implications of eliminating the individual income tax. The report was a public document and all candidates had the opportunity to use the information presented. ”
“Lastly, the Youth Ambassador Program is designed to empower youth to become active participants in their education. The program does give high school students an opportunity to advocate for legislation that they think is best for them (If you look at the 2021 legislative agenda, you will see that the students selected legislation that was introduced by legislators from both sides of the aisle,) but we focus on giving students a skill set to become long-term and engaged citizens.”
The RPV’s complaint calls for the IRS to review Virginia Excels, and take actions including revoking the organization’s tax-exempt status and imposing appropriate penalties and taxes.
Youngkin’s Stance on Income Tax
The RPV press release states, “Although Republican nominee for governor Glenn Youngkin has made clear he is not advocating for eliminating Virginia’s individual income tax, the Virginia Excels ‘report’ and press release explicitly ties their report to the ongoing gubernatorial election. The Democratic Party of Virginia (DPV), Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign, and the partisan propaganda blog Blue Virginia immediately touted the ‘report’ and falsely claimed it ‘details the effects of Glenn Youngkin’s economic plan on Virginia education system,’ exposing the Virginia Excels ‘report’ as a blatant partisan political campaign activity.”
Youngkin’s campaign did not respond to a request to clarify his position on income tax, but during the GOP nomination cycle he said he was considering how to eliminate income tax, according to Politifact.
“We are absolutely focused on not just getting our state income tax down, but how can we, in fact, eliminate it,” Youngkin said on The Larry O’Connor Show.
After the nomination, on August 4, Youngkin said on The Vince Coglianese Show, “I don’t believe that we can fully eliminate Virginia’s state income tax, but what we have now is a challenge that Virginia is more expensive than any of our peer states to live in.”
On WLNI on August 10, Youngkin said he had called for state tax rebates for Virginians. “I think it’s their money. My opponent thinks it’s his money. But I know that money belongs to all Virginians. And then with regards to tax rates on a go-forward basis, in Virginia we can’t get rid of our state income tax, but we can sure try to bring it down. And it is an important part of funding our government, we can’t go to zero like Tennessee and Florida, but we can certainly bring it down, and that’s one of the things that I’m really focused on when I go work for all Virginians as the next governor.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Terry McAuliffe” by Terry McAuliffe. Background Photo “Virginia Excels” by Virginia Excels.