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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1169: Tax Profs Oppose Impeachment/Censure Of Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Congress Reaches New Low In Proposed Censure Of IRS Commissioner, by Bryan Camp (Texas Tech):

Those who voted for H. Res. 737 are like my son who, when younger, would throw objects across the house in his fits of frustration.  The difference, however, is that at least my son was careful to hurl objects that would not do much damage or break.  In contrast, H. Res. 737 seeks to throw Commissioner Koskinen across the House and so risks doing great damage to a decent man and risks further breakage to a tax collection agency already weakened by relentless and mindless budget cuts.

Look, I’m a law professor.  I try to teach my students more than just an understanding of the rules relating to taxation.  I want them to respect the law-giving authorities, both the Congress that writes the laws and the agency that must administer the laws as written, the IRS.

H. Res. 737 undermines my teachings. The resolution is permeated with pettiness, putrid with peevish odors. In case you think I just like alliteration, let’s take a look at some of the “charges” in the document and you will see what I mean. ...

Not only are these accusations baseless, they’re trashy.  The entire reason that Congress even knew about the potentially missing email was because Mr. Koskinen was, in fact, transparent about the email search process and dutifully reported to Congress about several problems in June 2013.  He was able to do so, in part, because he consistently attempted to inculcate a sense of duty within the IRS.  Rather than hiding problems as the resolution asserts, Mr. Koskinen went to extreme lengths to disclose and explain them.

What seems to affront the sensitive souls of those who voted H. Res. 737 out of committee is that Ms. Lerner’s hard drive crashed in June 2011.  They have faith, sure and pure, certain and implacable, that this was no accident and that Lerner was hiding something.  I say “faith” because they have no evidence.  Even the faith part is shaky:  the TIGTA report that started it all (May 14, 2013) shows Lerner had no reason to hide or cover up anything in June 2011.  No one was watching or investigating her in June 2011.  The entire matter of inappropriate scrutiny of 501(c)(4) applications was still an internal matter.  It did not hit the Congressional radar screen (according to the first TIGTA report, on page 3), until the 2012 election cycle.  TIGTA began its investigation in June 2012, about a year after Lerner’s hard drive crashed.   It sure takes a lot of faith to believe that a hard drive crash in June 2011 was Lerner’s attempt to thwart an investigation that started in June 2012.  Gosh, you’d THINK she’d would have at least waited until May 2012 so she could get rid of more stuff…

But those searching for conspiracy have faith.  Their faith guides them even a step further into fantasy: since Lerner’s hard drive must have contained incriminating evidence (because it crashed), it follows that the White Paper and Mr. Koskinen’s letter were just covering up the cover-up.  You see, a determined and faithful conspiracy theorist is not deterred by a lack of evidence.  A lack of evidence just proves a successful cover-up. ...

H. Res. 737 is a petty product of petulance. I’ve watched Mr. Koskinen testify at several hearings and what I have seen is grace under pressure. He came out of retirement at age 74 to volunteer for his country.  I would like to see any one of the yahoos who voted H. Res. 737 out of committee step up and volunteer to manage the IRS when they turn 74.  Wait…no…on second thought, given how they have mangled their oversight duties, that is not a sight I hope to see.

I sincerely hope that when Congress re-convenes in September, the House will treat H. Res. 737 like the garbage it is and throw it away.

The Surly Subgroup:  Don’t Impeach IRS Commissioner Koskinen, by Leandra Lederman (Indiana):

... The censure and impeachment efforts relate to government attempts to obtain Lois Lerner’s emails. Production of these emails was a major challenge for the IRS, for many reasons, as detailed in an enclosure accompanying a June 2014 letter from IRS employee Leonard Oursler to the Senate Committee on Finance. Among them was the fact that Ms. Lerner’s computer’s hard drive had crashed in June 2011. In written testimony before the House Oversight Committee in March 2014, Commissioner Koskinen stated that “More than 250 IRS employees have spent nearly 100,000 hours working directly on complying with the investigations, at a cost of nearly $8 million. In order to properly protect taxpayer information while efficiently processing voluminous materials for production, we had to add capacity to our information technology systems and, therefore, spent an additional $6 million to $8 million to optimize existing systems and ensure a stable infrastructure.” In June 2015, TIGTA reported that “[n]o evidence was uncovered that any IRS employees had been directed to destroy or hide information from Congress, the DOJ, or TIGTA”, although it also found “that the IRS did not put forth an effort to uncover additional, responsive emails” (p.18 of TIGTA’s June 30, 2015 report). Bryan Camp discusses that issue in a post at Procedurally Taxing.

Others have observed that the attempt to impeach Commissioner Koskinen seems partisan and unjustified, as well as unprecedented. It is an unnecessary distraction for an agency struggling with inadequate resources. Moreover, attacks like this one will no doubt deter other talented individuals from being willing to serve in the top ranks of the IRS. The ACTC is right in requesting “Congress [to] reject impeachment and censure, and instead apply its time and attentions to improving both the tax law and the administration of our tax system.”

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/07/the-irs-scandal-day-1169-tax-profs-oppose-impeachmentcensure-of-commissioner-koskinen.html

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Comments

I respectfully disagree - but I'm only a tax lawyer, not an august tax professor.... The way the IRS has behaved under Koskinen - regardless of whether he more or less admitted it or not - is the reason there is a substantial loss of respect for the IRS. What the IRS has done is illegal, and the IRS' loss/destruction of documents and stonewalling to cover up blatantly illegal behavior and use of tax records and use of nonprofit status requests is unconscionable.

From my perspective, it's not only enough to impeach Koskinen, but to replace the IRS staff wholesale. Maybe even abolish the IRS.

Posted by: catorenasci | Jul 21, 2016 8:57:32 AM

Highlighting the age seems really inappropriate and tacky.

"...I’ve watched Mr. Koskinen testify at several hearings and what I have seen is grace under pressure. He came out of retirement at age 74 to volunteer for his country. I would like to see any one of the yahoos who voted H. Res. 737 out of committee step up and volunteer to manage the IRS when they turn 74."

Posted by: Just another CPA | Jul 21, 2016 11:39:34 AM

Appeal to authority fallacy. Saying that Koskinen shouldn't be held accountable because of respect for authority is no argument at all.

Also, what makes Koskinen decent?

It did not hit the Congressional radar screen (according to the first TIGTA report, on page 3), until the 2012 election cycle.

When Lerner planted a question at a press conference.

And regardless of when Lerner's HD was destroyed, Koskinen continued allowing evidence to be destroyed, stonewalled turning it over to the courts and congress, failed to look for it, and lied about its existence.

Posted by: wodun | Jul 21, 2016 1:41:38 PM

Production of these emails was a major challenge for the IRS

Yes because they were destroyed and the backup tapes were intentionally hidden. Also, the Obama IRS was run like a crime syndicate using code words and intentionally using means of communication that were not subject to retention guidelines.

Posted by: wodun | Jul 21, 2016 1:44:04 PM

The primary cause of a loss of respect for the IRS are the baseless partisan acts by the GOP.

Posted by: Sterling | Jul 22, 2016 3:19:03 AM

Sorry, Sterling, no dice. A plurality of the public, who aren't stupid as you suggest, rated the job performance of the IRS as "Poor" because of what the agency itself was doing between 2010 and 2013:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/162764/americans-views-irs-sharply-negative-2009.aspx?g_source=IRS&g_medium=search&g_campaign=tiles

And a majority of the public, again who aren't stupid as you suggest, think the targeting was politically motived, because of the way the President himself handled things:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/162962/americans-think-officials-knew-irs-political-targeting.aspx?g_source=IRS&g_medium=search&g_campaign=tiles

You may continue fishing!

Posted by: MM | Jul 22, 2016 7:50:54 PM