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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The IRS Scandal, Day 103

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USA Today op-ed:  Scandals Costing Us American Exceptionalism, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds (Tennessee):

"Who can you trust?" That's the title of a pretty good album, but it's also the question for our age. One of the underpinnings of successful representative government is that voters feel they can trust their representatives, and those in the bureaucracy to whom power is delegated, to follow the law. That trust in government officials' willingness to follow the law is the foundation for a sense that the law is legitimate, so that citizens feel a duty to follow the law as well.

But that trust has taken a big hit lately. Over the weekend, the IRS scandal hit the 100th day since the IRS admitted targeting conservative groups during the 2012 election year. Yet the IRS is still being charged with stonewalling Congressional investigators. IRS official Lois Lerner, of course, has already taken the Fifth rather than testify about what went on. ...

Enough breaches of trust -- and I haven't even started to hit all the scandals out there, by a long shot -- and ordinary people will start to assume that the whole system is corrupt. And if that happens, people will quit following the law because they think it's the right thing to do, and only do so to the extent they're afraid of getting caught. Plenty of countries operate on that principle. They're just not as nice to live in as countries where the law has moral stature. When government officials breach trust, they push us closer to that sort of third world condition. Which is why, when they're found doing so, they should be punished severely.

USA Today, IRS Assailed From All Sides for Lack of Transparency:

After admitting it targeted Tea Party groups for additional scrutiny in May, the IRS has been called on to explain its formerly obscure process for policing political activity by tax-exempt groups.

And, by almost all accounts, it's not doing a very good job.

Last week, the non-profit publisher Tax Analysts filed suit against the IRS under the Freedom of Information Act, saying the agency failed to release training materials used by the agency's Exempt Organizations staff in Cincinnati.

Congressional investigators have complained that the agency has turned over only a small fraction of the records they've sought. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said the IRS' slow response to congressional inquiries "begins to look a lot like obstruction."

Within the IRS, the Taxpayer Advocate Service has criticized the agency's Exempt Organizations office for failing to reveal how agents review tax-exempt groups for political activity -- in spite of laws requiring disclosure. "This lack of transparency reduced EO's accountability to the public and made it easier to believe that EO was arbitrarily singling out applications for further review based on ideology," Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said in a special report to Congress in June.

Even some of the agency's biggest supporters say they've been frustrated by the IRS' failure to respond to key questions. "Steam has been coming out of my ears for the last three months, because the IRS hasn't been able to defend itself. In a way, they're their own worst enemy," said Evelyn Brody, a law professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Chicago-Kent College of Law. She said the IRS' reticence is party justified by taxpayer privacy laws, but the agency could still do a better job explaining its processes.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/08/the-irs-scandal--4.html

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Comments

How is it we cannot get answers from people we employ? Also if they broke the law fire them and have them arrested, if this happened to just one of them you would soon see a flood of talkers ratting on everyone.

Posted by: William | Aug 20, 2013 3:31:03 PM

The IRS and Obama Administration are dragging the IRS inquiry out as long as they can by refusing to provide documents and to cooperate. The Obama goal, of course, is to diminish the inertia of the inquiry and public concern and to outlast the entire scandal -- with the cooperation of the mainstream media that refuses to cover this other than to repeat in concert that the "final nails are in the coffin" on the matter.

That makes it pretty difficult for Paul to come up with anything each day other than left-wing denials and frustration on the part of those wanting answers. He may have to change the title of this daily post from "IRS Scandal" to "IRS Cover Up."

It took years for Watergate to unravel. This scandal is having dirt tossed on it in an attempt to bury it, but it is not dead and will eventually be exposed for its illegal attempt to limit conservative opposition and speech during the elections.

Posted by: Woody | Aug 20, 2013 8:47:55 PM