TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 955

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial, Free Speech and the Freedom Caucus: Congress Blocks IRS Political Meddling, but the Right Blows a Chance to Do More:

Republican disunity has limited Congress’s power of the purse, but the GOP majority has marked up a few victories. The budget and tax bills moving this week usefully block the IRS and other agencies from restricting political speech.

In 2014 opposition from the left and right forced the IRS to back down on its rule limiting political activities by tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups. But director John Koskinen, the most tone-deaf man in Washington, says he wants to try again, and the spending bill includes a provision that shuts that down.

The tax bill also blocks the practice of IRS employees using personal email for official business. The use of personal email by Lois Lerner, then head of the tax-exempt division, became a stumbling block for investigators trying to discover what happened. A provision in the tax bill also bans the IRS from imposing the gift tax on donations to 501(c) groups, an idea the agency considered in 2011 when it audited several conservative donors.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2015/12/the-irs-scandal-day-955.html

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Comments

Wow. While requiring the use of official email at the IRS is perhaps a small step forward, claiming that it is a significant issue in the IRS scandal itself is misinformed at best. The problem wasn't that Lerner and her subordinates used personal email, it was that they could not provide (or perhaps deliberately destroyed) their official email archives (stored on their individual, but official, computers). And then the IRS itself refused to look for the server backups, finally destroying those backups before the IG could recover them. And, of course, Lerner's inquiry into whether the instant messaging system was archived -- not email, but still an official system that should have been archived.

Trying to address this issue by banning use of personal email at the IRS is bright red and smells very fishy.

Posted by: TriggerFinger | Dec 20, 2015 8:48:07 AM

And what happens if an IRS employee uses personal email for official business? Is it up to the DOJ to prosecute? That's certainly worked out well for the concept of Justice.

Posted by: JMOD46 | Dec 20, 2015 11:03:02 AM

As a revenue agent that retired in March, I can assure you that I was informed once a week, yes, I'm slightly exaggerating, not to use personal email for taxpayer business. Even on the irs.gov system, all taxpayer info was to be sent by encrypted emails.

Posted by: Elmer Stoup | Dec 20, 2015 11:37:49 AM

I don't feel that contributions to support political activity should be tax deductions. Why should they be? So I feel that a tax-exempt group shouldn't be able to engage in political activity - (well perhaps for a de minimis amount such as <10% do avoid getting caught up in the fringes.)

Posted by: Henry Schaffer | Dec 20, 2015 11:38:19 AM

The problem is that the Obama administration at large and Lerner and her conspirators at the IRS and DOJ knew what they were doing was wrong. People willing to break multiple laws aren't going to be stopped by some new ones. The only way to fix this, is to hire ethical people and to fire the Democrat party operatives.

Posted by: wodun | Dec 20, 2015 2:35:19 PM

The great majority of federal and state employees are not issued PDAs or phones by their employers. As a result, many use personal phones, smart phones, etc. when they are away from their offices.

Also, I agree with Mr. wodun. Since some people are not deterred by law and break them, we should do away with laws.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Dec 21, 2015 12:23:56 PM