The Internal Revenue Service has severed ties with ACORN, the controversial community-organizing group that was recently the subject of a series of hidden camera videos.
ACORN, short for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has been providing tax assistance to low- and moderate-income taxpayers as part of the IRSs Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program since 2004. ACORN had provided help on approximately 25,000 tax returns last tax season.
The group got into trouble after a pair of conservative activists posted a series of hidden camera videos on the Internet in which they pretended to be a pimp and prostitute seeking ACORNs help with preparing tax returns and finding housing (see ACORN on the Hotseat). They claimed they were bringing a group of underage Salvadoran immigrants to work in their business, and they filmed one of the ACORN employees giving them advice on how to claim the fictitious underage prostitutes as dependents and how to file a Schedule C claiming their business as a performing art.
The group filmed secret videos in a series of ACORN offices around the country in which they made similar attempts to deceive the employees. ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis vehemently objected to the videos and claimed the video makers had edited out key portions. The group said it had also filed a police complaint against the video makers after one of the visits.
Nevertheless, both the Senate and House voted last week to strip ACORN of funds for its low-income housing assistance and census-taking work. ACORN has fired several of the employees who were shown in the videos and has hired former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger to head an internal review of the organization.
The IRS said Wednesday it was terminating its relationship with ACORN, and the group said it had reached a similar decision to close down its own VITA operations. ACORN has also filed suit against the video makers, James OKeefe III and Hannah Giles, and the owner of the Web site where they first posted the videos, Andrew Breitbart.
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