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Saturday, March 8, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 303

IRS Logo 2Tax Analysts Blog:  More Arrogance and Secrecy From the IRS, by Christopher Bergin:

A couple of days ago, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee tried to hold a hearing on the IRS exemption scandal. I say try because it turned into a circus. Most of the press focused on the unprofessional and immature behavior of the committee’s top two members: Chair Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif., and ranking minority member Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md. The most significant part was largely ignored. ...

Lois Lerner, who is at the center of the controversy and the one who started all this by announcing at a meeting of the ABA Section of Taxation last May that the IRS had mistreated some conservative organizations, refused once again to testify. Somehow this thing has to come to a head.

I am not an IRS basher or hater. As I have said countless times, taking the heat for it every time (and that’s fair game, by the way), I know many fine people who have worked or work for that agency. But we are in litigation with the IRS in an attempt to get information on how it trained people to handle applications from groups seeking to be recognized as social welfare organizations. That litigation has been an incredibly frustrating process.

I don’t know if these apparent political decisions were made by Lerner or others either inside or outside the IRS, because trying to get information out of that agency is like trying to get sweat out of a rock. Over the years, it has fought the silliest things. I’m only half kidding when I say that if you asked the IRS to see the kind of staplers it’s using, it would tell you it doesn’t have staplers.

The IRS will go to great lengths not to be scrutinized. And that breeds an atmosphere of no accountability -- which leads to arrogance. We have seen that arrogance consistently throughout the congressional investigations of several IRS officials. And where will it lead us? Not to a good place, especially for those of us getting ready to file our yearly income tax returns. A tax collector that treats its “customers” as guilty until proven innocent is a tax collector out of control. That is precisely what the national taxpayer advocate has been warning about. If IRS officials don’t believe they are accountable to Congress, the rest of us don’t stand a chance. ...

Maybe it’s time to lay siege to Fortress Secrecy.

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