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Monday, May 20, 2013

Bergin: The IRS Is in Big Trouble

Tax Analysts Christopher E. Bergin (President and Publisher, Tax Analysts), The IRS Is in Big Trouble, 139 Tax Notes 951 (May 20, 2013):

Bergin discusses the catastrophic ramifications of the IRS’s recent apology for mishandling the applications of conservative exempt organizations and how things might be worse for the agency now than they were after the 1998 restructuring act.

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Very interesting. Is the fact that the IRS workers are now represented by a highly partisan labor union also significant?

Posted by: Peter B | May 20, 2013 7:03:04 AM

Peter B: IRS workers elegible for collective bargaining have been represented by the National Treasury Employees Union since the mid-1970s, or perhaps earlier. So the answer to your question is simple: no, there is no significance.

Mr. Bergin: The whole "customer" thing disturbed me when it came into common usage during the Clinton "reinvention" period. I am not a "customer" of the IRS. I am a citizen of the United States. The IRS is an agency that carries out the revenue collection function of the United States. My relationship to the IRS is far more dignified than that of a mere "customer." I think it's time we reawoke that fact.

Further to Mr. Bergin, it may be time to consider dividing the IRS's somewhat conflicting functions among two agencies. Perhaps we need a taxpayer service agency within the Treasury Department and a revenue enforcement agency. The former would handle returns processing, guidance, determinations (including exempt organization recognition), and related. Enforcement would handle audit, collection, and criminal investigation. This is similar to what was done to the old Atomic Energy Commission and Civil Service Commissions back during the Carter Administration.

Posted by: Publius Novus | May 20, 2013 8:24:08 AM

First let me say I have nothing against the IRS. They have never treated me unfairly except to the extent ordered by Congress. Congress deserves all that blame.

Chris Bergin misses the same crucial point that every other commentator has missed: Many people in the IRS knew about this practice for a long time, but nobody blew the whistle on it.

It's therefore reasonable to infer that the culture in the IRS condoned persecution of the "enemy": those who advocate smaller government.

Now when I hear stories that people have been audited after prominently expressing conservative political views, I will no longer automatically assume that it's only a coincidence. Too many partisans in the government have too little integrity. We are sliding toward a third world style of government in which the ends of winning elections justify any means.

Posted by: AMTbuff | May 20, 2013 10:03:23 AM

I am still not sure how looking into the tax exempt status of political organizations is persecution? Isn't that what they are supposed to do? If these Tea Party groups obey the law then they have nothing to worry about. I am sure if these were Dem leaning groups there would be a lot less wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Posted by: George | May 20, 2013 12:45:27 PM