10/23/2015 14:44 EDT | Updated 10/23/2016 01:12 EDT

Justice Dept.: No criminal charges for Lois Lerner, ex-IRS official in tax exemptions inquiry

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is declining to bring charges against Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the centre of a political controversy over the processing of applications for tax-exempt status.

Federal prosecutors announced their decision Friday in a letter to members of Congress.

A firestorm erupted more than two years ago with an inspector general's audit that said IRS agents had improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections.

The disclosure set off investigations by the Justice Department and multiple congressional committees.

The House voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress last year after she refused to answer questions at two House Oversight hearings. She has since retired.

Eric Tucker, The Associated Press