TaxProf Blog

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1050

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial, Chipping Away at the IRS Stonewall: A Federal Court Scores the Agency For its ‘Continuous Resistance’;

The media have ignored the IRS targeting of conservative groups, but the courts haven’t. On Tuesday the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals tore into the agency’s obstructionist conduct and ruled that the IRS must turn over the spreadsheets it created on the targeted groups. ...

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Raymond Kethledge ... and excoriated the IRS for stonewalling during discovery. Charges that an executive agency targeted citizens for their political views are “among the most serious allegations a federal court can address,” he writes. In this case, he added, they are “substantial” and based on a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Equally appalling is the agency’s effort to obstruct the legal process. “[I]n this lawsuit the IRS has only compounded the conduct that gave rise to it,” Judge Kethledge wrote, calling the IRS response “one of continuous resistance.” He added: “The district court ordered production of those lists, and did so again over an IRS motion to reconsider. Yet, almost a year later, the IRS still has not complied with the court’s orders.”

Readers may remember that last autumn District Court Judge Susan Dlott said her “impression is the government probably did something wrong in this case.” Determining liability is a legal question, she continued, but “the government is doing everything it possibly can to make this as complicated as it possibly can, to last as long as it possibly can, so that by the time there is a result, nobody is going to care except the plaintiffs.” ...

Unless it appeals to the Supreme Court, the IRS now has seven days to turn over the lists to the law firm representing the tax-exempt groups, Graves Garrett in Kansas City. Perhaps we’ll now see what the IRS and Justice Department have worked so hard to hide.

Wall Street Journal, IRS Chutzpah: Taxpayer-Protection Laws Won’t Shield Abuse of Power:

Will federal employees who support President Obama ever be held accountable for hijacking the Internal Revenue Service and using it to assist Obama’s re-election bid? Thanks to a ruling yesterday from the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of appeals, it’s possible the answer is yes.

The Washington Times’s Stephen Dinan sums up the finding: “A federal appeals court spanked the IRS Tuesday, saying it has taken laws designed to protect taxpayers from the government and turned them on their head, using them to try to protect the tax agency from the very tea party groups it targeted.” ...

“The IRS’s response has been one of continuous resistance,” Judge Kethledge observes. “For example, the IRS asserted that the names of IRS employees who worked on the groups’ applications were taxpayer ‘return information’ protected from disclosure by § 6103.” That is, the IRS attempted to invoke a law designed to protect taxpayers’ privacy to shield the identities of agency employees, who are supposed to work for the taxpayer. ...

In 1972 the IRS itself had more integrity than the White House. As we noted in 2014, then-Commissioner Johnnie Walters ignored an order from White House aide John Dean to target 200 of Nixon’s political enemies. “If I did what you asked, it’d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic,” Walters told Dean.

Under Obama, the IRS itself appears to have taken the initiative to target political opponents of the president—and not just powerful enemies, but ordinary Americans seeking to organize lawfully to further their views.

Washington Post, Obama Administration’s ‘Continuous Resistance’ in IRS Targeting Case Slammed by Federal Appeals Court:

A federal appeals court Tuesday slammed the Internal Revenue Service for what it called three years of “continuous resistance” to turning over documents in connection with a class-action suit brought by tea party groups singled out for months of delays, excessive paperwork and scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status in 2010.

A unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit found that the IRS, in its unresponsiveness to the charges, “has only compounded the conduct that gave rise” to them. ...

The unusually severe tongue-lashing by the appellate judges followed a similar rebuke of the government in the unrelated but even more sensitive case involving a Freedom of Information Act request by Judicial Watch, a conservative group, involving former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s personal email system.

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Comments

Keep up the good work, Prof Caron!

Posted by: IAB2 | Mar 24, 2016 8:17:29 AM

You fellas don't understand what is going on here. DOJ has obtained a gold-plated insurance policy for the United States. The Sixth Circuit has ordered the release of taxpayer names. Any one of the several hundred taxpayers whose names are going to be released pursuant to the district court's order could have sued for damages under IRC 7431 in any circuit in which such taxpayer lives. Now the United States will be able to assert the Sixth Circuit's order in defense to a damages lawsuit. Good lawyering.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Mar 24, 2016 3:00:28 PM