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Sunday, March 16, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 311

IRS Logo 2Tax Analysts Blog:  It’s Not Just About Lois Lerner, by Christopher Bergin:

I have written a lot here about the IRS and the issues surrounding the way it treated certain groups applying for tax-exempt status as social welfare organizations. It’s certainly a hot issue – it even made its way into The Economist this week. And wherever you stand on Lois Lerner, I think we can all agree that she is a classic lightning rod. The whole debate about what happened is charged with political intrigue, abuse of power, and Washington melodrama. It’s juicy stuff. I’ve enjoyed the discussion that’s been generated here.

But we need to remind ourselves that there is a lot more potential abuse going on at the IRS than what’s been associated with Lois Lerner. Here are a few examples. I talk to many practitioners who (a) don’t want to be identified, probably for fear of retaliation, and (b) question the independence of the IRS Appeals Office. That is a big problem.

In 2012 a high-ranking IRS executive said in a speech that she believes the government has a higher duty than that of a private litigant. “The government,” the executive said, “represented by the tax administrator, should not pursue a particular outcome and then look for interpretations in the law that support it. The tax administrator should do nothing more or less than find the law and follow it, regardless of outcome. The separation of powers, a bedrock principle of our Constitution, demands it.”

I have a few questions. How many private tax litigators believe that’s actually how the IRS operates? If this noble statement is taken seriously by others in the IRS, why did Tax Analysts have to go to court to get training materials? And why is the IRS being questioned so strongly by Congress on its belief – or, more accurately, the lack thereof -- in the bedrock principle of the separation of powers?

Taxpayer service at the IRS has become a non-priority, if it’s even considered anymore. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who is called the taxpayers’ voice at the IRS, has said that the agency is becoming dehumanized, caring more about numbers than taxpayers. In her annual report to Congress in January, she urged the IRS to implement a comprehensive, principle-based taxpayer bill of rights. ...

I’m sorry to say that there is more to worry about regarding what’s going on at the IRS – one of the most powerful agencies and one that affects all of us – than Lois Lerner. ...

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Comments

You are doing great work. I come by just about every day.

Posted by: David R. Block | Mar 17, 2014 7:59:35 AM