TaxProf Blog

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1216

IRS Logo 2Charlotte Observer editorial, Should IRS Chief Be Impeached?:

Congress returns to work Tuesday, and at the top of several members’ to-do list is impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. ...

It’s hard, we know, to gin up much sympathy among Americans for the chief tax collector. It’s even harder when the Internal Revenue Service has made so many missteps in recent years. The extent of Koskinen’s imperfections, though, is debatable; they almost surely fall far short of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that impeachment requires. ...

It’s possible his performance has been sporadic and his commitment to transparency inconsistent. That would, unfortunately, make him a Washington regular, but not a criminal traitor.

At a minimum, he deserves an exhaustive hearing and opportunity to defend himself in front of the House Judiciary Committee before such an extraordinary — and politically motivated — action is taken.

That’s not what Freedom Caucus members like North Carolina’s Rep. Mark Meadows envision. They are willing to take Koskinen’s fate to the House floor for an up-or-down vote with no due process. That would violate tradition and establish an ominous precedent.

Koskinen (a Duke grad and former chair of Duke’s board of trustees) took over in December 2013, charged with cleaning up the mess made by Lois Lerner. Lerner was at the center of a scandal prior to Koskinen’s arrival in which the IRS mostly targeted conservative political groups in their applications for nonprofit tax-exempt status.

Congress issued a subpoena to Koskinen seeking all of Lerner’s emails. Weeks later, IRS employees in West Virginia erased 422 backup tapes that contained as many as 24,000 of Lerner’s emails.

There is no evidence that Koskinen was personally involved in the deletion. The Republican-appointed inspector general investigating Lerner’s actions said the erasure was an accident stemming from a miscommunication.

The rest of the resolution to impeach Koskinen is flimsy. It accuses him of making “false and misleading statements” to Congress. Koskinen says he testified to what he thought was true at the time, even if some of it later turned out not to be accurate. ...

Lerner’s actions were unacceptable, and the IRS’s failure to retain vital documents in the case is disturbing. So Congress is right to continue to pursue questions. Impeachment, though, is almost certainly using a bazooka to kill a roach. At the least, Koskinen, who has offered a lifetime of public service and ethical behavior, deserves a chance to fully tell his side of the story.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/09/the-irs-scandal-day-1216.html

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Comments

He probably is being made to pay for Lerner's sins since she never will, but his case would be stronger if he wasn't such an arrogant *** at the time he said those things that "later turned out not to be accurate."

Posted by: tim maguire | Sep 6, 2016 9:12:21 AM

I believe that the impeachment effort is intended primarily to break the media blackout on this story.

If the IRS has acted this way in damaging, say, the NAACP rather than the Tea Party, the media would have been saturated with coverage.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Sep 6, 2016 9:48:13 AM

He lied to congress and the IRS destroyed evidence while he was in charge. Why not hold him accountable? Oh, because Democrats think there is nothing wrong with being more Nixonian than Nixon because their enemies deserve what happens to them.

Posted by: wodun | Sep 6, 2016 5:36:01 PM

IRS employees in West Virginia erased 422 backup tapes that contained as many as 24,000 of Lerner’s emails. The Republican-appointed inspector general investigating Lerner’s actions said the erasure was an accident stemming from a miscommunication. IS LYING A MISCOMMUNICATION?

Posted by: Karen Walby | Sep 7, 2016 8:40:04 PM