TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1456:  The Impact Of The Sixth Circuit's Decision In NorCal Tea Party Patriots

IRS Logo 2Haley A. Stence (J.D. 2017, Cumberland), Comment, United States v. NorCal Tea Party Patriots: Has the IRS's Ability to Engage in Political Activities, Negatively Target Nonprofit Organizations, and Hide Behind 26 U.S.C. § 6103 Ended?, 40 Am. J. Trial Advoc. 201 (2016):

In the wake of the 2016 United States presidential election, it is difficult to think that debates, billboards, and television commercials are not the only sources of political uproar. Although it is common knowledge that the media can often times portray and even promote a political agenda, it is disturbing to uncover litigation accusing government entities of promoting their own positions on public policy and hiding behind statutory law to protect those decisions. In 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its employees were accused of improperly targeting conservative political organizations that apply for tax-exempt status as nonprofit organizations. To protect its internal actions regarding the alleged improper targeting, the IRS invoked 26 U.S.C. § 6103 in order to keep controversial documents confidential and out of the hands of disgruntled plaintiffs. Section 6103 asserts that tax returns and the information contained within them are confidential and that no representative of the government can disclose this information unless one of the specific and limited exceptions within the statute has been met. Using 26 U.S.C. § 6103 as a shielding device, the IRS claimed the information disgruntled plaintiffs sought-mostly applications and internal documents- was taxpayer "return information" and thus "protected from disclosure by § 6103."' Giving deference to tax courts, circuit courts have historically upheld this determination in similar situations.

Nonetheless, on March 22, 2016, in the case of United States v. NorCal Tea Party Patriots, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit disagreed with this interpretation and determined that tax exempt application information is not "return information," and thus not protected from § 6103 disclosure. The Sixth Circuit's ruling directly contravenes a previous District of Columbia Circuit ruling on the issue and is likely to expose attempts by the IRS to intervene in United States politics via the tax-exemption application process and 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3). This Comment discusses the basics of §§ 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4), the attempts by the IRS to engage in politics using § 501(c), the conflicting holdings and United States circuit courts' various interpretations of § 6013 protection for the IRS, and the future implications of the circuit split created by the Sixth Circuit's holding in NorCal. ...

Conclusion:  The Possible Impact of the Sixth Circuit's Interpretation of "Return Information
"The fervent hope of many is that the Sixth Circuit's decision in United States v. NorCal Tea Party Patriots will force into the light any possible wrongdoing on the part of the IRS. Although the Sixth Circuit's holding is considered a narrow interpretation, some believe practitioners should not get the impression that much has changed outside the Sixth Circuit. An important item of note is that the holding would apply only to documents already in the possession of the IRS that include upon submission "names, addresses, and taxpayer-identification numbers of applicants for recognition of exemption, not to other information included in their applications." IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has expressed concern that such personal and identifying information on other types of IRS filings might not be covered by § 6103 after the Sixth Circuit's holding. "Additional filings with the IRS that may not be returns under section 6103 include requests for taxpayer advocate service assistance (Form 911) and applications for filing extensions...."

Admittedly, it is possible that additional information that had previously been determined confidential under § 6103, may not remain confidential, even if the taxpayer would prefer that it did. Primarily, the interpretation of the Sixth Circuit was in regards to information provided on applications for tax-exempt status. "[F]ormer IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Marcus Owens has suggested ... the decision should not reach identifying information for applicants under section 501(c)(3) because such applicants are required to file to claim tax-exempt status .... Thus, it is possible the information provided within a 501(c)(3) application would have been information previously filed in a tax return, and thus considered return information protected from disclosure by § 6103. Additionally, the Sixth Circuit's interpretation "only applies to identifying information for the applicant, not the rest of the information contained in the application." Lastly, NorCal arguably only applies within the Sixth Circuit, and the many cases from other jurisdictions may instead follow the D.C. Circuit's precedent or may undertake the issue as a matter of first impression.

All things considered, for plaintiffs hoping to bring IRS political activity into the public light, the Sixth Circuit appears ready to take on in-depth analysis in order to help shine light into the dark recesses of historical targeting by an agency that should not be engaging in politics.

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May 4, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1445:  'True The Vote v. IRS' Lawyer: 'The Deep State Is Still Operating'

IRS Logo 2PJ Media, 'True the Vote v. IRS' Lawyer: 'The Deep State Is Still Operating':

A prominent constitutional attorney is sounding the alarm over Obama administration-style behavior by attorneys in President Trump's new administration. Jim Bopp, Jr., the attorney for the plaintiff in the landmark Citizens United suit, told PJ Media that he has seen no change in the attitude of government attorneys since Trump's inauguration:

The Deep State is still operating, no question. ...

I see no evidence the attitude of the IRS has changed. We have a new attorney general, and the Department of Justice is providing the lawyers to defend the IRS in this case. We've seen no change.

Bopp is currently involved with two similarly high-profile suits against the federal government and he says the Trump administration's defense attorneys are presenting arguments indistinguishable from those he faced during Obama's tenure.

In True the Vote v. IRS, election integrity watchdog True the Vote sued the federal government in 2013 over its targeting of pro-liberty non-profit groups for extra scrutiny. This case has wide implications for all non-profits that claimed their tax status was denied or delayed by Lois Lerner and a rogue IRS. ...

It boggles the mind that the IRS in a Trump administration would still be defending the actions of Lois Lerner and the notorious branch in Cincinnati. They had burdened groups with "Tea Party," "Liberty," "Constitution," and other related words in their title with mountains of extra paperwork to affirm their non-profit tax status. Yet, according to Bopp, that is indeed the case. ...

Bopp's observations come amid a renewed push by House Republicans to reopen the case against Lerner for possible prosecution. On April 9, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Tax Policy Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting he reopen the probe.

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April 23, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1444:  Judicial Watch Sues IRS Over Email Preservation

IRS Logo 2Press Release, Judicial Watch Sues IRS Over Email Preservation:

Judicial Watch today announced that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to obtain records relating to the agency’s “preservation and/or retention” of the email records of officials who have left the agency since January 2010. (Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No.1:17-cv-00596)). The suit was filed as part of Judicial Watch’s continuing efforts to gain information about the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and citizens during the Obama administration.

Judicial Watch filed the complaint after the IRS failed to respond to a November 15, 2016, FOIA request seeking:

  • All records concerning the preservation and/or retention of email records generated by IRS officials and employees upon their departure from the IRS; and
  • All records related to any changes, updates, or modifications to IRS policies and procedures for the retention of email records generated by IRS officials and employees.

The timeframe for the request is for records from January 1, 2010, to the present.

“Judicial Watch doesn’t trust the IRS, especially given its dishonesty about Lois Lerner’s emails,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The IRS was used by Obama and his allies to suppress his political opposition in a way that helped guarantee his re-election. Now we need to make certain that the IRS is not continuing to try to cover its tracks by destroying records.”

Judicial Watch’s litigation forced the IRS first to say that emails belonging to Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS, were supposedly missing and later declare to the court that the emails were on IRS back-up systems.  Lerner was one of the top officials responsible for the IRS’ targeting of President Obama’s political opponents.

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April 22, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1442:  Editorial Calls For Firing IRS Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, Fire IRS chief John Koskinen:

President Trump needs a win. The public would benefit from reassurance about the institutions of government. Luckily, both can be achieved with a single action. Trump should dismiss IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

By telling the taxman he's fired, the president would re-energize his young administration. More importantly, he would also significantly reform the most loathed agency in Washington. Tax Day provides a perfect chance for this sort of principled populism. ...

So long as Koskinen stays in his job, taxpayers have no such assurance. He was brought in by President Obama to clean up the IRS in 2013, but has succeeded only in making the agency more corrupt. A political crook and a liar, Koskinen has no place working in the Trump administration. ...

But Koskinen set himself above the rules. Trump vows to drain the swamp, and the IRS boss is an especially capable and devious swamp monster. House Republicans have tried shaming, censuring, and even threatening to impeach him. But each time, he's found a way to survive.

The failure of past lawmakers provides Trump a perfect opportunity. As the head of an administrative agency, Koskinen serves at the pleasure of the president. A word from Trump would send him packing and bring closure to the controversy.

A principled power move, firing Koskinen would also provide the White House with a needed influx of political capital. What's more, it would signal the beginning of a new era of good government during the Trump era.

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April 20, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1438:  Sessions Is Noncommittal On GOP Request To Reopen DOJ Probe Of Lois Lerner

IRS Logo 2WND, Sessions 'Will Evaluate' Request to Probe IRS Boss: GOP Lawmakers Charge Lois Lerner Criminally Targeted Tea Party:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was noncommittal when asked in an interview whether he would fulfill a request by Republican lawmakers to review evidence that former IRS official Lois Lerner engaged in criminal misconduct by targeting tea-party and conservative groups for their political beliefs.

“Are you inclined to open an investigation of Lois Lerner and the IRS?” asked Boston talk-radio host Howie Carr Thursday.

Sessions hesitated.

“Well, I would, I’m, uh, interested in that letter,” he said.

“We’re going to respond to it, and I think it would be appropriate to review certain cases, and we’ll evaluate this one for possible review,” the attorney general said.

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April 16, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1437: Lois Lerner Fears For Her Life, Asks Federal Court To Seal Her Upcoming Deposition Testimony

IRS Logo 2Washington Times, Lois Lerner Demands Secrecy, Blames Death Threats Over IRS Tea Party Targeting:

Former IRS senior executive Lois G. Lerner told a federal court this week that she faces the possibility of death threats if her role in the tax agency’s tea party-targeting becomes public, and asked a judge to forever seal her upcoming deposition in a class-action lawsuit brought by hundreds of groups that were targeted.

Mr. Lerner and Holly Paz, another figure from the IRS tea party targeting, told the judge they’ve already faced “harassment and death threats” before, and said they fear another media firestorm if their version of events from the tea party targeting were to become public.

The two women said they are willing to testify, but said they could be putting “their lives in serious jeopardy.”

“Mss. Lerner and Paz have demonstrated that the public dissemination of their deposition testimony would expose them and their families to harassment and a credible risk of violence and physical harm,” they said in documents submitted by their lawyer to Judge Michael R. Barrett. ...

The class action lawsuit involves 428 groups who were snared by the IRS targeting procedures. That case, which is being heard in a federal court in Ohio, is in the discovery phase, and Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz are supposed to give testimony. ...

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., two cases brought by tea party groups are proceeding. A judge on Wednesday granted limited discovery in those cases, ordering the IRS to detail its past and current approval processes for tax-exempt organizations. Judge Reggie B. Walton also said the groups could depose Tamera L. Ripperda, a former IRS employee who ran the Cincinnati office that processed the applications. The groups also can depose the unnamed IRS employee who currently holds that same post.

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April 15, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (11)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1435: House GOP Tax Writers Ask Attorney General To Reopen Criminal Investigation Of Lois Lerner

IRS Logo 2Letter from Kevin Brady (Chair, Ways & Means Committee) & Peter Roskam (Chair, Subcommittee on Tax Policy) to Attorney General Sessions (Apr. 12, 2017):

On April 9, 2014, the House Committee on Ways and Means voted to send a letter to the Department of Justice referring former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois G. Lerner for criminal prosecution.  As indicated in the attached letter, the Committee’s nearly three-year investigation uncovered evidence of willful misconduct on the part of Ms. Lerner.  Despite this fact, and for what many believe were purely partisan reasons, the prior Administration refused to review Ms. Lerner’s misconduct.  For the reasons described below, I respectfully request the Department of Justice to take a fresh look at the evidence presented in the attached referral in order to restore taxpayers’ trust in the IRS.

In particular, the Committee found that Ms. Lerner used her position to improperly influence IRS action against conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law.  The Committee also found she impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  Finally, Lerner risked exposing, and may actually have disclosed, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of Internal Revenue Code section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business. 

As you know, your predecessor brought no charges against Ms. Lerner or any other IRS employees involved in the improper targeting of organizations applying for tax-exempt status. 

Disturbingly, in February 2014, while the investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) was ongoing, President Obama stated there was “not a smidgeon of corruption” at the IRS, preempting a fair investigation in which he had political equities.  It is clear that when the DOJ announced in October 2015 that it would not bring charges against Lois Lerner, the agency was following President Obama’s signal on how he wanted the investigation to be handled. 

Taxpayers deserve to know that the DOJ’s previous evaluation was not tainted by politics.  Again, I respectfully request that the Department of Justice to take a fresh look at the evidence presented in the attached referral in order to assure the American people that DOJ’s prior investigation was handled fairly and to restore taxpayers’ trust in the IRS.

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April 13, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1434:  How To Prevent The Next IRS Targeting Scandal

IRS Logo 2Tax Revolution Institute, How to Prevent the Next IRS Targeting Scandal:

We now know beyond a doubt that the Internal Revenue Service targeted and denied the nonprofit status of hundreds of organizations — mostly Tea Party and constitutionalist groups, but also those across the spectrum like Coffee Party USA — just in time for the 2012 presidential election. What we don’t know is whether anyone will be punished for this grand-scale corruption. ...

The 695-page release (PDF) of documents on April 4 — acquired thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from Judicial Watch — is the final nail in the coffin, if there were any doubters still around. The fact that these documents remained under wraps during congressional hearings is itself worthy of condemnation.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton says there is no wonder why the IRS was reluctant to release these files: “The new smoking-gun documents contain admissions by the Obama IRS that it inappropriately targeted conservative groups.” Further, even when coming under scrutiny, “the abuse continued — as the Obama IRS tried to force conservative applicants to give up their First Amendment rights in order to finally get their applications granted.” ...

Not only will going after a few visible individuals not root out the bad faith, “American taxpayers are at risk for similar treatment in the future” — as noted by the Cause of Action Institute, another DC-based watchdog. CAI asserts that the targeting of politically relevant nonprofits with Special Case Reports (PDF) was and remains standard procedure. Their case rests on the little-known nonprofit red flags from Part Seven of the Internal Revenue Manual for IRS employees, which include whether the group might “generate significant publicity or controversy.” ... [W]e have to change incentives for the IRS and find solutions that go beyond the normal partisan brinkmanship. ...

What is politically plausible remains to be seen, be that a reworking of IRS procedures by the Congress or a more fundamental tax reform that places revenue collection in the hands of state governments. Perhaps the former can be an intermediate step before the latter.

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April 12, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1433: House Oversight Committee Republicans Call On President Trump To Fire Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Townhall, House Oversight Committee: President Trump, Remove IRS Commissioner John Koskinen:

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, including Chairman Jason Chaffetz, have sent a letter to the White House demanding IRS Commissioner John Koskinen be removed from office.

"By applying additional rigorous scrutiny and unjustifiable, interminable delays to their applications for tax-exempt status, our own government betrayed the fundamental principles of liberty, free speech and democracy for partisan political reasons," the letter states. "So long as the IRS commissioner is a man who has misled the people, destroyed evidence, and failed his legal duties to the people's representatives in Congress, the IRS is not 'controlled by the people.'  For that reason, we request you immediately remove Koskinen." 

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April 11, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1430: At Least 1 Top Republican in Congress Really Likes Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Salt Lake City Tribune, At Least 1 Top Republican in Congress Really Likes IRS Head: Orrin Hatch:

At least one powerful Republican in Congress really likes IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Utah's Orrin Hatch might be the only one.

Hatch gave Koskinen a warm welcome at a Senate hearing Thursday, a day after House Republicans asked President Donald Trump to fire him. "I personally appreciate the work that you have done over the years," Hatch, the Senate's senior Republican and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, told Koskinen. "I appreciate the service you have given to this wonderful country."

At the other end of the spectrum is another Utah Republican. Rep. Jason Chaffetz has been Koskinen's most fervant detractor, repeatedly seeking his resignation and even calling for his impeachment. Chaffetz not only relentlessly pursued the IRS leader from his perch as House Oversight and Government Reform chairman, but he even testified against him as a witness before the House Judiciary Committee, claiming Koskinen has misused his power, lied and withheld records.

Unprompted, Hatch said he has a good relationship with Koskinen. It's an influential statement of support because Hatch serves as Senate president pro tem — making him third in line to succeed the president. Hatch also led the Senate Finance Committee investigation of allegations the IRS targeted conservative groups for audits, and said Koskinen cooperated.

But Hatch's backing may not be enough to counter the ire against Koskinen from other Republicans, some of whom want him to step down before his five-year-term ends in November.

On Wednesday, 15 GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee said trust in the IRS has hit rock bottom. They said that under Koskinen, the IRS destroyed evidence when Congress was investigating the tax agency for inappropriately singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny. ...

Koskinen said he has not heard from anyone in the Trump administration about stepping down.

But in tense exchange at Thursday's hearing, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., asked Koskinen if he intends to finish his term. "It gives me no pleasure and some degree of sadness," Roberts said. "I have been disappointed in your record at the agency."

Koskinen replied, "I regret that you're disappointed in the performance." Koskinen went on to defend his record. He said the IRS has implemented every recommendation from every investigation into the IRS handling of conservative groups. He said no one at the tax agency hindered any of the investigations.

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April 8, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, April 7, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1429:  Commissioner Koskinen Says He Will Finish Term Despite GOP Calls To Step Down Immediately

IRS Logo 2The Hill, IRS Chief Says He's Committed to Finishing His Term:

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Thursday said he is committed to finishing his term, one day after Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee called for his removal.

“I signed up for a term that ends in November,” Koskinen said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing. “Where I come from, if you sign up for a commitment, you complete that commitment.”

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April 7, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1428:  Fifteen Ways & Means Committee Republicans Urge Trump To Fire Commissioner Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Letter From 15 House Ways & Means Committee Republicans to President Trump (Apr. 5, 2017) (press release):

As members of the House Ways and Means Committee, we believe it is imperative that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) work for the best interest of all taxpayers, and that the taxpayers in tum have confidence in the IRS's ability to fairly administer the tax code. This trust is at the core of our system of voluntary tax compliance . Trust in the IRS is hitting rock-bottom under IRS Commissioner John Koskinen . Not only was key evidence relevant to this Committee's investigation destroyed under his watch, but he also misled Congress in the process, intentionally degraded customer service at the agency, and has since lost the trust of the American people. We believe that trust cannot be fully restored under Commissioner Koskinen's leadership. For this reason, we are writing to request the removal of John Koskinen as Commissioner of the IRS and to request that a new leader be put in place as soon as possible.

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April 6, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1427:  54 Applications For Tax-Exempt Status Were Rejected In 2016; One Conservative Group Has Been Waiting For An Answer Since 2009

IRS Logo 2Washington Free Beacon, IRS Denied Tax-Exempt Status to 37 Religious, Charitable Groups in 2016: One Group Has Been Waiting For Tax-Exempt Status For More Than Seven Years:

The Internal Revenue Service denied tax-exempt status to 37 religious, charitable, and educational organizations in 2016, according to recent data from the agency.

The IRS rejected a total of 54 applications for tax-exempt status in 2016. Groups applying for 501(c)3 status, which applies to non-profits whose mission is religious or charitable in nature, comprised 69 percent of denials.

Nearly 85,000 groups applied for 501(c)3 status in 2016. Of those applications, 79,545 were approved, 37 were denied, and 5,006 were not adjudicated. According to the IRS, the 5,006 applications that were not adjudicated in 2016 were either withdrawn by the organization, did not include required information, were incomplete, or were IRS correction disposals. ...

As early as 2010, the IRS began targeting applicants for tax-exempt status based on their political ideology, delaying the applications of some Tea Party and conservative groups before the 2012 presidential election. To this day, some groups are still waiting for their tax-exempt status to be approved.

Attorney Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, represents 37 conservative and pro-life nonprofit organizations encountered opposition from the IRS in getting their tax-exempt status approved. One of these groups is still waiting for determination after filing for tax-exempt status in December 2009, which means it has been waiting for more than seven years. ...

Sekulow said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who has led the agency since 2013, needs to be replaced by someone who Congress and the American people can trust. "We've had a very firm position at the ACLJ, we believe that there needs to be total reform at the IRS, and the institution is incapable of self-correcting," Sekulow said. "That means people like Koskinen and a lot of the bureaucrats like Lois Lerner that run the [exempt organizations division] and the different departments within the IRS need to be changed."

Sekulow said Koskinen missed an opportunity to clean up the IRS and was too protective of the agency and its officials. Koskinen's term ends at the end of November 2017, though he said late last year he would resign at the request of President Donald Trump. Sekulow said added pressure from Congress to impeach the commissioner could encourage Trump to take him up on his offer. ...

"You shouldn't have to be afraid that the IRS will target you because of your political beliefs or your religious beliefs," he said. "So that's why we believe continued pressure from Congress, I think, President Trump would appreciate that because it would give him the momentum to make that decision and it would work in tandem. You would have Congress calling for it and the president taking action on it."

The IRS did not respond to requests for comment.

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April 5, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1426: Obama’s IRS Chief Who Dodged Impeachment Continues Under Trump

IRS Logo 2Daily Signal, Obama’s IRS Chief Who Dodged Impeachment Continues Under Trump:

In the heart of tax season, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen will address the National Press Club next Wednesday even as many members of Congress question why someone who dodged impeachment during the Obama administration continues to be the face of the tax collecting agency under President Donald Trump.

“It could be partly that for the checklist of the Trump administration, they don’t yet have a full Cabinet and this isn’t a priority. External pressure, from what I picked up, should continue,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director for the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal group, told The Daily Signal. “If we saw more pressure from Congress, I think Koskinen would be gone.”

Koskinen’s five-year term ends in November, unless he is removed. Though Koskinen wasn’t in office when the IRS targeted tea party and conservative groups, House Republicans said he was repeatedly uncooperative and misled congressional investigators. Koskinen has said he acted in good faith to cooperate with the investigation. ...

In January, shortly after Trump took office, 53 House Republicans—led by Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina—asked Trump to remove Koskinen.

Walker spokesman Jack Minor told The Daily Signal Thursday the congressman stands by the letter, which House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah; Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C.; also signed. ... Chaffetz’s opinion hasn’t changed that Koskinen should not only be removed from office, but should forfeit his government pension, M.J. Henshaw, spokeswoman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told The Daily Signal Thursday.

Last week, Cause of Action Institute, a conservative government watchdog group, issued a report asserting the IRS can engage in politicized targeting again under a section of the internal revenue manual. The report called for the Trump administration to roll back the rule.

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April 4, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1424:  Conservatives Demand IRS Commissioner’s Head In White House Meeting

IRS Logo 2Daily Caller, Conservatives Demand IRS Commissioner’s Head In White House Meeting:

An off-the-record White House meeting with roughly two dozen conservative leaders Wednesday included explicit calls for President Trump to fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, according to a source in the room.

White House conservative liaison Paul Teller organized the meeting Wednesday between Trump staffers and leaders of conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Judicial Watch.

Talk of Koskinen’s firing was part of a larger discussion on clearing out Obama-era personnel from the executive branch where possible, the source said. The broad consensus among attendees was that Trump needs to clean out Obama-era bureaucrats if he is going to be successful in pushing through his agenda.

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April 2, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1421: More On A Hidden Cause Of The IRS Scandal

Cause of ActionFox News, IRS Still Allowed to Target Political Groups, According to Watchdog Org:

The IRS is still able to target certain political groups despite being publicly exposed for the unfair practice more than five years ago, according to a new report by a watchdog group.

A rule in place at the IRS allows the federal agency to delay the applications of non-profit groups looking for tax-exempt status, claims the Washington-based Cause of Action in its report, A Hidden Cause of the IRS Targeting Scandal. The IRS admitted in 2013 that leading up to the 2012 election the agency unfairly targeted right-leaning groups as well as those with “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their name. More than five years after the practice was exposed, Cause of Action says the IRS has not made changes to end the practice. “The regulation that allows them to do this is still there,” John Vecchione, executive director of Cause of Action told Fox News. “It’s bureaucratic inertia until someone makes a change.”

The findings claims the IRS is able to target these groups while still complying with its own rules. Cause of Action claims changing this practice would be a simple and quick fix. “The IRS has the authority to change its internal policy at any moment, which means it can remove the problematic rules at its discretion,” the authors of the report said in their findings. “Doing so would eliminate the agency procedure than enabled the targeting scandal. To date, the agency has not made the required changes to its rules.”

Officials for the IRS refute the report’s claims. “The IRS strongly disputes the report and any suggestion or allegation that Exempt Organizations is targeting taxpayers,” reads a statement provided to Fox News. “The IRS emphasizes that this point has been confirmed by independent third parties, including the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.”

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March 30, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1420: A Hidden Cause

Cause of ActionCause of Action, Sensitive Case Reports: A Hidden Cause of the IRS Targeting Scandal:

Executive Summary:
Beginning in February 2010, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS’) singled out certain non-profit organizations for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Numerous subsequent congressional investigations and media reports demonstrated that the targeting involved invasive questioning and years-long delays, and focused disproportionately on right-leaning groups, especially those with “Tea Party” in their name. These reports, however, have almost entirely overlooked a hidden cause of the targeting scandal,which remains in effect today. As a result, American taxpayers are at risk for similar treatment in the future.

Contrary to the conventional storyline, there exists an institutional policy that was the first impetus in prompting IRS employees to target groups based on their political viewpoints. That policy is embodied in an internal IRS rule—which is still on the books—that singles out applications from any group interested in issues that might garner attention from either the media or Congress. In such cases, the merits of the application are ignored as IRS employees develop “Senstive Case Reports” for consideration by those above them in the IRS hierarchy. The result is a process that interferes with the unbiased review of applications for tax-exempt status designed to apply to all eligible organziations, regardless of their political viewpoints or affiliations.

Seven years after the targeting scandal began, the rule that enabled this inexcusable behavior still exists. Until that rule is removed from the internal manual used by all IRS employees, targeting of politcal opponents will remain a very real threat. Fortunately, removing the offending provisions is a simple process that can be started at any time and completed without the need for new legislation or formal notice-and-comment rule-making.

Findings:

  • Targeting was—and is—IRS policy, not a violation of it.
  • The employees who initiated the targeting cited an internal “Sensitive Case Report” process that singled out applications that might attract media or congressional attention.
  • Sensitive Case procedures remain in effect today.
  • The IRS has the authority to change its internal policy at any moment, which means it can remove the problematic rules at its discretion. Doing so would eliminate the agency procedure that enabled the targeting scandal. To date, the agency has not made the required changes to its rules.

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March 29, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1417:  Satan, Tea Parties, and the IRS

IRS Logo 2Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Satan, Tea Parties, and the IRS:

Did you hear that the IRS granted a Satanic cult tax-exempt status in ten days?!? Meanwhile, Tea Party groups’ exemption applications languished for months or even years?!?

I know, it sounds pure conspiracy theory: the IRS loves Satan and hates conservatives. But it’s true! Or, at least, kind of! But it needs to be contextualized, because comparing the exemption application of Reason Alliance, Ltd. (the putative Satanic cult) and Tea Party groups is inapposite.

First things first, though: the framing of this “controversy” is purely a product of the Outrage Industrial Complex, as represented by Fox News and Judicial Watch. And I’m sure the invocation of “Satanic cult” is going to get them clicks and shares. But Satanic cult? The Reason Alliance is the tax-exempt offshoot of The Satanic Temple, which strikes me as basically a relatively-clever piece of performance art meant to object to religions enjoying tax-exempt status, and which otherwise functions as a much funnier, and more self-aware, version of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Because The Satanic Temple objects to religions’ exemption from taxation, it has chosen not to pursue tax-exempt status itself. Apparently, though, in the interest of facilitating donations from individuals whose charitable giving is more elastic, it created the Reason Alliance to permit deductible charitable giving.

But the substance of the outrage here isn’t Satan; rather, it’s that Satan could essentially bypass the line (of Tea Party groups, probably) in getting his exemption from tax. ...

But did Satan bypass the line? In a word, no. ...  The Reason Alliance filed a Form 1023-EZ. ... [T]he Reason Alliance merely chose a faster route to exemption.

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March 26, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1416:  The Root Problem Is The Law, Not The IRS

Hackney (2017)Philip Hackney (LSU) delivered the Norman A. Sugarman Memorial Lecture in Nonprofit Law at Case Western yesterday on Improving IRS Charity Oversight: Responsible Congressional Delegation, Responsive IRS Rulemaking:

Whether you think it fair or unfair, there is a large segment of American society who believes the IRS targeted conservative groups trying to obtain tax-exempt status from at least 2011-2013, leading to explosive accusations on the professional integrity and political bias of the agency.

In this lecture, Professor Hackney, James E. & Betty M. Phillips Associate Professor of Law, LSU Law Center, will clarify how this charge is unfair or at the least deeply misguided, explaining that root problem is not the alleged political litmus test by the IRS in considering tax exempt status in the charitable sector, but rather the law — both in its construction and implementation.

Congress has provided vague legal standards for the IRS to implement in the tax exempt arena, resulting in costly enforcement attempts that have undermined the public’s confidence that the laws are being enforced in a fair and impartial manner. To solve this issue, Congress should enact standards in this arena, but that the Treasury Department and the IRS ought to implement rules.

This lecture will consider the political, legal, and technical challenges to adopting such a rule-based regime for charity oversight.

See Philip Hackney, Charitable Organization Oversight: Rules v. Standards, 13 Pitt. Tax Rev. 83 (2015).

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March 25, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, March 24, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1415:  ‘Media Attention’ And IRS Abuse

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed: ‘Media Attention’ and IRS Abuse: A Simple Rule Fix Could End Partisan Targeting Tomorrow, by John J. (President & CEO, Cause of Action Institute):

The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Americans for their political views may have ended with the Obama administration — or even with its exposure in 2013. But it could easily recur. Even now, an internal IRS rule singles out applicants for nonprofit status who might be tied to anything newsworthy.

The genesis of the targeting scandal was Section 7.29.3 of the Internal Revenue Manual. As noted in a report my organization is issuing Wednesday, this manual dictates how IRS employees handle everything from customer service to criminal investigations. This particular section tells them to flag for further review any application for tax-exempt status that might “attract media or Congressional attention.”

That’s a broad, vague and subjective command that career IRS employees are nevertheless required to follow. Emails between IRS personnel make clear that low-level employees were guided by this rule throughout the targeting scandal. They repeatedly cited “media attention” on the Tea Party as the reason to single out and delay applications from conservative groups.

This rule means that IRS enforcement reflects the ideological biases of the media. Aside from a small number of groups related to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the defunct advocacy group Acorn, libertarian and free-market groups were almost exclusively targeted.

These provisions of the IRS manual have nothing to do with the merits of a nonprofit application and everything to do with keeping the agency from looking bad. It is inappropriate for a group’s tax-exempt status to be deep-sixed because of negative publicity. In the targeting scandal, this approach allowed partisan concerns to overtake the application process, resulting in the unfair treatment of political viewpoints at odds with the Obama administration.

Equal justice under the law demands that the IRS abandon the “newsworthy” criterion. To date, however, the agency has promised only to stop making lists of targeted groups “until further notice.” Even if the halt were permanent, it wouldn’t be enough. IRS officials are still required to follow the manual and pull high-profile applications for enhanced scrutiny.

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March 24, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 20, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1411: Why Did Donald Trump Fire Sally Yates And Preet Bharara, But Not John Koskinen?

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Washington Examiner, Why Is Trump Afraid of Draining the Swamp at the IRS and Firing John Koskinen?:

Political cartography in Washington can be difficult. After three months in office, it's clear President Trump doesn't believe the D.C. bog includes the federal building at the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. He won't drain the swamp at the Internal Revenue Service.

Famous for firing people, Trump has disrupted the status quo in the nation's capital with his personnel decisions. He quickly terminated Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, then sacked 46 federal prosecutors. But he won't ax IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Conservatives have been gunning for the tax chief's scalp for years. To no avail, they've tried shaming, officially censuring, and impeaching Koskinen. But now that Trump's in the White House, they're wondering why the president is sheltering the taxman. ...

The Trump White House keeps dodging the question. On Friday, press secretary Sean Spicer referred curious reporters inquiring about Koskinen's fate to the Treasury Department, even after it came to light that the agency still has 7,000 unreleased documents related to the scandal. ...

Trump has every reason to dismiss the tax agent. With Koskinen at the helm, the IRS was able to cover up its targeting scandal. Brought in by President Obama to clean up the agency's image, he turned a blind eye as the IRS covered up its scandal and continued to violate citizen's First Amendment rights.

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March 20, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1410: Judicial Watch Forces Disclosure Of New Documents

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Breitbart op-ed: Obama IRS Scandal Continues – Judicial Watch Forces IRS to Disclose New Documents, by Tom Fitton (President, Judicial Watch):

We have no intention to allow the extra-legal activities of former President Obama’s administration to fade into the sunset now that he is out of office. Particularly egregious was his use of the might of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to target groups that disagreed with his political views.
And heel-dragging at the IRS continues.

Last week, Judicial Watch reported that the agency informed the U.S. District Court that it located “an additional 6,924 documents of potentially responsive records” relating to our 2015 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit regarding the Obama IRS targeting scandal.

The lawsuit at issue sought records about the IRS selection of individuals and organizations for audits based upon applications requesting non-profit tax status filed by Tea Party and other 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations (Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:15-cv-00220)). ...

The corruption at the IRS is astounding. Our attorneys knew that there were more records to be searched, but the Obama IRS ignored this issue for years.

Remember that in July 2015, we released Obama IRS documents confirming that the agency used donor lists of tax-exempt organizations to target those donors for audits. The documents also show that IRS officials specifically highlighted how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce may come under “high scrutiny” from the IRS.

In September 2014, another JW FOIA lawsuit forced the release of documents detailing that the IRS sought, obtained, and maintained the names of donors to tea party and other conservative groups. IRS officials acknowledged in these documents that “such information was not needed.” The documents also show that the donor names were being used for a “secret research project.”

The Obama IRS scandal continues, and President Trump needs to clean house at the IRS as quickly as possible.

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March 19, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1409:  'After School Satan Club' Granted Tax-Exempt Status In 10 Days While Conservative Groups Waited Years

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Judicial Watch Press Release, IRS Gives “After School Satan Club” Tax-Exempt Status in 10 Days:

While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) makes conservative groups wait years for tax-exempt status an “After School Satan Club” launched to hinder Christian-based counterparts got its nonprofit ranking in just ten days, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. The classification is offered to charitable, religious and educational organizations that operate as nonprofits. Under the Obama administration IRS political appointees illegally targeted conservative groups, either making them wait up to seven years for tax-exempt status or denying their application altogether. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal and has obtained piles of government records showing how the IRS illegally colluded with another federal agency to single out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status.

In the meantime, leftist groups like the Satan club got fast tracked. The principle goal of establishing the Satan clubs in public schools throughout Washington State appears to be to counter existing enterprises operated by a Christian-based group. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch include the process of establishing an after-school Satan club at Point Defiance Elementary in Tacoma. The entity behind the club is a nonprofit called Reason Alliance, which is based in Somerville, Massachusetts, and operates in Washington State as the Satanic Temple of Seattle. Its director, Lilith X. Starr, established the Point Defiance Elementary Satanic club, the records show. In its application the club states that its purpose is “character development” and that adult instructors are vetted by the Satanic Temple’s “Executive Ministry.” Children ages 5-12 will develop basic critical reasoning, character qualities, problem solving and creative expression, according to the Satanic Temple filings included in the documents. The club logo is a pencil with devil’s horns. Records obtained by Judicial Watch from the Treasury Department show that the Satanic cult applied for tax-exempt status on October 21, 2014 and received it on October 31, 2014.

The parent permission forms ask for the name of the child’s church and pastor, the records show. They also reveal that Starr, the Seattle Satanic Temple director, told Tacoma School District Superintendent Carla Santorno that the clubs are led by “caring Satanists” and each child receives a membership card. Starr also tells the superintendent that the effort to establish after-school Satan clubs in Tacoma schools is in direct response to the Christian-based Good News Clubs operating in campuses throughout the district. This ignited concern among some Tacoma district officials, the records show. In one electronic mail exchange, Tacoma Schools official Andrea O-Brien-Henley sends colleague Paul Koch a citation from the Satanic Temple’s website noting that the temple only wants to establish after-school Satan clubs in school districts with Christian Good News Clubs. O’Brien-Henley notes that it’s odd that the Satanic Temple only targets schools that have Good News Clubs, writing to hear colleague: “If they really want to get their message out to kids it seems kind of odd that they would only be targeting schools with a Good News Club; one would think that they would want to start clubs anywhere there is an *interest* in them.”

Here’s the citation that O’Brien-Henley forwarded to fellow school district official Koch from the Satanic Temple’s website: “How do I start an After School Satan Club in my school district? If there isn’t a chapter of The Satanic Temple near you, but you’re interested in starting and After School Satan Club in your school district, please contact The Satanic Temple. Please keep in mind that the Satanic Temple is not interested in operating After School Satan Clubs in school districts that are not already hosting the Good News Club. However, The Satanic Temple ultimately intends to have After School Satan Clubs operating in every school district where the Good News Club is represented.”

In another exchange, the Executive Director of Communications for the Tacoma School District, Dan Voelpel, expresses concern to colleagues that people will confuse the school district’s message of tolerance toward the Satan Club with tolerance toward alleged “hate-related activities around the country in the wake of the presidential election.” In the records the principal of Point Defiance Elementary reveals that, two weeks after the Satan club was launched, no one had signed up for it. The fact remains however, that the IRS fast-tracked a deranged Satanic cult to operate as a nonprofit in taxpayer-funded elementary schools.

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March 18, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, March 17, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1408: Why Won't The Media Cover It?

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The Hill op-ed: Why Won't the Media Cover IRS Scandals?, by Jenny Beth Martin (President & Co-Founder, Tea Party Patriots):

Sometimes the most insidious attack on our individual liberty arises not from the government’s wholesale trampling on those rights, but instead from a widespread chilling effect, in which individuals “self-police” or regulate their behavior out of fear of the government’s retaliation.

The years-long IRS scandal surrounding its abuse of power when it engaged in a systematic targeting of conservatives is a powerful example of the government’s ability to initiate a chilling effect on free speech.

It has been nearly four years since the IRS admitted in May of 2013 to singling out and targeting conservative groups, especially tea party groups, for additional scrutiny, onerous paperwork, and even audits. The IRS’s abusive targeting, which lasted for years, was entirely motivated by political animus and caused untold — incalculable, even — devastation to conservatives and to conservative groups. ...

After meeting with, and speaking with, hundreds of local tea party organization members in 2013, I was convinced of three key points: 1) the IRS’s targeting scandal had had a profound impact on organizations’ abilities to attract new members, fundraise, and engage on important policy battles; 2) the chilling effect of the federal government’s actions was real, devastating, and impossible to calculate; and 3) the American public needed to know the full extent of the targeting scandal so we could ensure it would never happen again.

When news of the targeting became public, the media was completely disinterested. And, now, four years later, it seems, not much has changed with the media’s interest levels.

Just this past week, the IRS revealed that it had found nearly 7,000 documents potentially related to the targeting of tea party groups. Yes, the agency that has stone-walled Congress for four years, lost computers and hard drives and tens of thousands of emails, just discovered 6,924 documents in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Judicial Watch.

Mainstream media outlets have barely reported on this latest revelation at all. And why should they? It’s only the latest chapter in a tome the media has made clear it has no intention of sharing with the American public. ...

Two hallmarks of a free society are that individuals do not have to live in fear that their political views or activities will cause them to be subjected to abuse by the federal taxing agency, and that the press holds government accountable when it becomes abusive to its citizens. It seems, in both areas, we have a lot more work to do.

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March 17, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1407: NY Post Editorial, Fire The IRS Chief Already, Mr. President

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New York Post Editorial, Fire the IRS Chief Already, Mr. President:

Why is IRS Commissioner John Koskinen still in office? A growing number of Capitol Hill Republicans want to know — and they have good reason to be troubled.

When he took over in 2013, Koskinen was supposed to “fix” the IRS — and in particular get to the bottom of the scandal in which the agency deliberately held up approvals for 75 conservative and Tea Party groups that had applied for legitimate tax exemptions.

Instead, what Congress and the public got from him was obstruction, open defiance and a refusal to discipline anyone at the agency. Indeed, he seemed most concerned with running interference to shield the Obama administration from any embarrassment.

Nor was he alone: The Obama Justice Department refused to bring criminal charges against anyone at the IRS. To date, no one has been held accountable for what even liberal legal icon Laurence Tribe has called “inexcusable abuse.” ...

It’s clear there’ll be no IRS reforms while Koskinen is in office. He’s the No. 1 candidate in Washington for President Trump’s signature line: “You’re fired.”

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March 16, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, March 13, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1404: Attorney General Sessions Weighs Appointing Special Counsel To Investigate Obama's Justice Department Scandals

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Hugh Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

Hugh Hewitt:  Now let me switch to the Department itself, Mr. Attorney General. It had a bad eight years. I’m a proud veteran of the Department of Justice, as you are. But the IRS case, the Fast and Furious case, Secretary Clinton’s server, the Department of Justice came under great criticism. How about an outside counsel, not connected to politics, to review the DOJ’s actions in those matters with authority to bring charges if underlying crimes are uncovered in the course of the investigation, and just generally to look at how the Department of Justice operated in the highly-politicized Holder-Lynch years?

Jeff Sessions:  Well, I’m going to do everything I possibly can to restore the independence and professionalism of the Department of Justice. So we would have to consider whether or not some outside special counsel is needed. Generally, a good review of that internally is the first step before any such decision is made.

Hugh Hewitt:  Will you be looking at the IRS investigation specifically, because that left many of us thinking that the Department of Justice had laid down for a terrible abuse of political power?

Jeff Sessions:  It does. That circumstance raised a lot of questions in my mind, and when I was in the Senate. So it is a matter of real concern to me.

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March 13, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1403: Should Koskinen Remain, Resign, Or Be Fired?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1402: IRS Locates 7,000 Documents Related To Tea Party Targeting

IRS Logo 2Washington Free Beacon, Two Years Later, IRS Locates 6,924 Documents Related to Tea Party Targeting; Agency Will Not Commit to a Timeframe to Make the Documents Public:

The Internal Revenue Service has located 6,924 documents potentially related to the targeting of Tea Party conservatives, two years after the group Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for them.

The watchdog group intended to find records regarding how the IRS selected individuals and organizations for audits that were requesting nonprofit tax status.

The agency will not say when it will make the documents available to the public.

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March 11, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, March 10, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Days 1301-1400

March 10, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1377:  Republicans Still Want IRS Chief's Head

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, Republicans Still Want IRS Chief's Head:

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, became the latest GOP lawmaker to call for IRS Commissioner John Koskinen's head.

"Frankly, in my view, he's the most corrupt IRS commissioner that I've ever dealt with," Brady said on Monday. He "continues … to mislead Congress, and until he's removed, I don't think the IRS will ever regain its credibility.

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February 14, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1367:  White House Mum On Fate Of IRS Boss Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Newsmax, White House Mum on Fate of IRS Boss Koskinen:

The fate of controversial Internal Revenue Commissioner John Koskinen at the hands of President Donald Trump remained uncertain as of Thursday.

At the regular briefing for reporters at the White House, Newsmax reminded Press Secretary Sean Spicer numerous House Republicans recently met with Vice President Mike Pence and urged him to tell the President to sack the controversial IRS boss.

"Had Pence brought their intentions to the president and, if so, what was the fate of Koskinen?" we asked.

"I have nothing to update you on," replied the president's top spokesman.

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February 4, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1365:  55 GOP Members Of Congress Ask Trump To Fire Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Letter to President Trump (Jan. 30, 2017):

Dear President Trump,

The consideration of the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in the House in late 2016 was a clear indication that Congress and the American people have no confidence in Commissioner Koskinen or his ability to discharge his duties.

The IRS, through its targeting of citizens for their political beliefs, has forfeited the trust of a free people. The IRS has admitted to improperly targeting conservative groups, delaying applications for tax-exempt status from 2010-2012, with at least 75 groups selected for extra scrutiny. Moreover, in August 2016, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the IRS had yet to demonstrate that officials have definitively ceased targeting conservative groups. The ruling came at the heels of evidence that two targeted conservative groups continued to have delayed applications for tax-exempt status pending at the IRS.

Congressional investigations, hearings, and actions have shown that Commissioner Koskinen misled Congress, obstructed investigations into the IRS, and failed to comply with Congressional subpoenas. Commissioner Koskinen's willful deception and obstructionism has only further eroded any remaining confidence.

Pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7803, you have the authority to remove Commissioner Koskinen. We encourage you to dismiss him in the most expedient manner practicable. Such an action would restore the credibility of our Federal tax authority and the faith the American people have in their Constitutional rights to free speech and association.

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February 2, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1363:  The Final Chapter On The End Of My Daily Coverage

IRS Logo 2Peter J. Reilly (Forbes), IRS Scandal Daily Coverage The Final Chapter:

Last week, Paul Caron, the TaxProf, dean of the tax blogosphere, called an end to daily coverage of "The IRS Scandal" on Day 1352.  This was 552 days beyond the point that I had opined that the series had "jumped the shark". To be clear, I was not suggesting that the Prof stop covering the scandal, just that there be an occasional day here and there on which there was nothing to report.  So it just took another 552 posts for that to happen.  It is worth noting that there were more Happy Days episodes after Fonzie jumped the shark than before, so maybe it was not such a bad call on my part.

Regardless, in order to make case for shark jumping I went through the series in two posts which are here and here.  For the sake of completeness I thought it would be nice to go through the rest of the series to see how it is that the Prof managed to keep it going for over a year after my shark jumping call.  Over a year ago, on Day 943, Professor Caron indicated that he was running out of material and it might be ending soon.  Things changed on Day 984.  He had thought that it might end at 1,000, but the certification of a class action lawsuit - NorCal Tea Party Patriots v IRS  promised significant material for some time to come.

Just as a reminder.  Day 1, May 10, 2013, is where the TaxProf count starts with the headline - IRS Admits to Targeting Conservative Groups in 2012 Election. ...

Day 1024 is in a class all by itself as we learn that Donald Trump has been audited so many times perhaps because he is such a strong Christian. ...

Scattered among the days are full scale commentary pieces about the scandal.  I'm not going to give you a lot of links, but instead am putting out the three pieces that lay out the two extreme positions and a more intermediate one.  On Day 1008 in recognition of the scandal millennium (by TaxProf day count) Jennifer Kabbany wrote in the National Review one of the best summaries of the scandal true believer creed. ...

The series also contains reference to the counter narrative.  On Day 1144, we hear from Ralph Nader. ...

A more nuanced view, one that I find interesting although not persuasive, is put out by Joe Kristan. He believes what happens was a form of self-weaponization on the part of the IRS.

The self-weaponization of the bureaucracy against its political opponents is hugely depressing. The government workforce is overwhelmingly on the side of the political party that favors an ever-larger state. There are plenty of Lois Lerners in the IRS and throughout the Leviathan. The Tea Party scandal, and the complete lack of accountability for its perpetrators, gives no reason to hope those who don’t share that worldview can expect a fair shake. That’s especially true when the sitting president (referring to President Obama) shows no interest in discouraging such behavior

This view is buttressed by an entry on Day 965 with reports about federal employees giving more political donations to Democrats than Republicans.  ...

Most of the commenters on the coverage tended to support the anti-IRS narrative.  When I showed up, there would often be a brickbat thrown.  My favorite was from somebody who goes by Porkypine:

Peter J. Reilly's writings on this matter in Forbes have tended to be IRS/Administration apologias, under a thin cloak of reasonableness. Too thin to cover the way he hovers between disingenuousness and mendacity in these efforts, however.

There was one though who joined me in scandal skepticism. That is Publius Novus whose last supportive comment was:

I am a Reilly Agnostic. I too would like to see what's under the rocks. Specifically, I would like to hear testimony from LLerner after an immunity grant. And if the Republicons were honest about pursuing this mess, they would grant immunity. Why not Mr. Chaffetz?

It is interesting to note that Paul Caron himself called for Lerner immunity in a piece on USA Today which was featured way back on Day 369.  I have not had any luck in figuring out who Publius Novus actually is,  Paul Caron has told me that he doesn't know.  Joe Kristan suggested Judge Crater, a joke that was too obscure for me to get.  Well, he or she should not have any trouble finding me.

And those comments are probably an indication of one of the best things about the TaxProf's chronicle.  It took the people who follow it out of their bubbles.  It will be interesting to see whether the crusade picks up again.  I can see in the coming weeks as the practicality of the Obamacare replacement or the wall building becomes challenging, that representatives of the Trump administration and the Republican congressional majority will start pining for the days when the buck did not stop with them. Then they will recall that Lois Lerner was probably the best enemy that they ever had and the scandal will get another lease on life.

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January 31, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1360: VP Pence, GOP House And Senate Push Trump To Fire Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Newsmax, Pence Will Urge Trump to Sack IRS Boss:

Responding to the urging of House Republicans, Vice President Mike Pence will soon call on President Trump to fire or force the resignation of controversial Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen. Newsmax learned this Thursday afternoon from several lawmakers at the House Republican Retreat in Philadelphia. ...

Emerging from a closed-door meeting with the vice president Thursday morning at the House Republican Retreat in Philadelphia, Rep,. Chris Collins (R.-N.Y.) confirmed that the subject of sacking Koskinen was raised. "[Pence] said 'I can hear you,'" said Collins, who said the vice president "promised us" he would share with President Trump the strong belief of Republicans in Congress that "Koskinen must go."

Washington Examiner, Led by Republican Study Committee, 50 House GOPers Tell Trump to Fire IRS Chief:

A faction of conservatives is circumventing leadership brass and calling directly on President Trump to tell IRS Chief John Koskinen, "You're fired."

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., will make the ask. The chairman of the Republican Study Committee has quietly but urgently been circulating a letter inside the GOP conference to build support. He's now got 50 congressmen signed onto the letter. 

The Hill, McConnell: Trump Should Replace IRS Commissioner:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says President Trump should replace John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner who faced an impeachment vote in the House last year. “I think he’s been a disaster and I’d be shocked if we don’t have a new one,” McConnell told The Hill on Friday. ...

The Trump transition team said in December that the then-president-elect had not yet made a decision on whether to replace Koskinen immediately or allow him to serve out the remaining year of his term.

Politico, GOP Airs Old Grievances in Private Pence Meeting:

Congressional Republicans used a private audience with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday to rehash years-old political controversies — even suggesting Pence fire the IRS commissioner, according to sources in the room.

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January 28, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (12)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1358: More Reflections On The End Of My Daily Coverage

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William Jacobson (Cornell), TaxProf Ends Daily Coverage of IRS Scandals:

After 1352 days, thank you for your service, Sir.

Pepperdine Law Professor Paul Caron, also known as TaxProf at the TaxProf blog, started daily coverage of the IRS scandal(s) several years ago. The College Fix has some good background on the endeavor.

TaxProf probably didn’t think it would last this long. But once you start to cover something daily, it’s hard to stop.

After 1352 days, Tax Prof stopped daily coverage. ...

Thank you for your service, Sir.

Mark Meckler, the man behind the Convention of States movement, writes that monitoring the IRS can’t stop, TaxProfBlog stops daily blog about IRS harassment of conservative groups, so now we need to do this:

Just because Donald Trump is now in office doesn’t mean conservatives can take their eyes off the federal government.

On this blog, I’ve written extensively about the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups and have often linked to Paul Caron who has kept a daily update on the scandal at the TaxProfBlog. Unfortunately, his coverage has come to an end ….

…. thank you for the amazing service you provided. But in the meantime, we can’t let up and allow this corruption to go unpunished and allow the tax agency to walk away free from its responsibility. Trump vowed to remove corruption from Washington, and we look forward to watching him make good on his promise.

I agree with Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit who wrote, “There hasn’t been sufficient accountability for the IRS’s gross misbehavior here, but I think that Caron has done a tremendous service by keeping the issue alive for so long. I remain deeply disappointed at how many of his fellow tax professors criticized him for doing so, because they didn’t want Obama and the Democrats to look bad.”

We must stay the fight.

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January 26, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1356: Reflections On The End Of My Daily Coverage

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Peter J. Reilly (Forbes), TaxProf Calls An End To Day By Day IRS Scandal Coverage:

Paul Caron, the TaxProf, dean of the tax blogosphere has called the end of an era.  We were all distracted with the inauguration, an admittedly important even, but given the number of peaceful transitions of power we have had since 1800, well 1860 anyway, not really that remarkable.  Professor Caron declared that he was ending daily coverage of the IRS scandal with Day 1352.

His announcement is particularly meaningful to me. Check out the lead paragraph:

In response to inquiries from Peter J. Reilly (Forbes) and Brian Leiter (University of Chicago Law School), I previously discussed when I would stop my daily coverage of the IRS Scandal.

Professor Caron explained

My answer is the same as it has been throughout the scandal: I will stop when the daily commentary in the press and blogosphere on the scandal (from both the right and the left) ends. At several points in the scandal, as I was running out of content, a new chapter would unfold and my daily coverage would continue.

At any rate, his mention of me in this context gives me a sense of having really arrived in the tax blogosphere after over seven years since my very first post. ...

I remain the last IRS scandal agnostic. Frankly, I don't think you needed a big conspiracy to account for the IRS getting its works gummed with exempt applications from groups calling themselves a party but claiming they were mostly not political.  On the other hand, both Joe Kristan and George Will think there is a scandal and that is a tough pair to be dismissive of. ...

In October 2015 I wrote two posts in which I indicated that the quality of the TaxProf's series was being diluted, by the addition of extraneous matter. ... The core scandal had been about difficulties processing applications for exempt status. Conservative groups were not getting their exempt status revoked for single statements.

There were quite a few strands of stories that were legitimately connected to the core scandal. Lois Lerner's emails, the congressional investigations, emails lost on servers, how quickly Koskinen moved the investigation on are examples. But extraneous material started creeping in. ...

It seems that the IRS Scandal even more than usual is something that is viewed through ideological glasses. ...

I reached out for some comments on the closing of the day by day scandal coverage.  Joe Kristan refereed me to his post, which ironically became Day 1353.

Thanks to TaxProf Paul Caron for staying on this undercovered story. The IRS and Lois Lerner admitted the targeting on Day 1. People have been trying to walk that back ever since, either by moving the goal posts (“the President was never implicated”) or by pretending the targeting never happened. The tax agency taking on itself the task of targeting political organizations is scarier than it doing so at the bidding of the White House.

Now we wait to see whether the new President will disarm the IRS, or wield it.

Robert Flach, the Wandering Tax Pro wrote me:

I did not follow the professor's coverage. I agreed with you that he "jumped the shark" way back. I felt he was truly beating a dead horse.

I personally strongly oppose the Tea Party and the religious right - but I am also no fan of the Commissioner and felt he mismanaged the IRS. ...

Paul Streckfus of the EO Tax Journal wrote me:

It's probably time, even if Lois Lerner is the gift that keeps on giving. What's interesting is whether Trump wants to keep the scandal alive. The wild card is the House Freedom Caucus. They probably expect Sessions to open another investigation of Lois Lerner. If so, Caron may have stopped his countdown too soon!

The scandal has really devastated the IRS exempt function.  The groundwork for the next scandal has been laid in this one. The next scandal will be about how nobody is watching exempt organizations creating a playground for scoundrels.

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January 24, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1353: Will The Trump IRS End, Or Embrace, Targeting Of Disfavored Groups?

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Joe Kristan (Tax Update Blog), Obama’s Tax Policy: How Much Will Survive?:

Obama tax policy was a sharp break from the Bush years. The Trump years, in turn, will likely veer off the Obama path in many areas. Here’s my list of the big developments in tax policy during the Obama years, and my guesses as to how they will fare under Trump. ...

IRS Scandal.  IRS exempt organizations official Lois Lerner blew open the Tea Party scandal by planting a staged question at a May 2013 conference. The modified limited hangout failed to contain the scandal, which still is working through courtrooms 1351 days later. Commissioner Koskinen’s apathetic and clumsy response to the admission that right-leaning organizations were targeted for special scrutiny on their exemption applications (and remember, this was admitted at the start, only to be walked back later) sowed distrust, and appropriations reductions, that cripple the agency still.

I would be surprised if Koskinen stays in office much past tomorrow. The real question is whether the new administration reverses the weaponization of the IRS, or just adopts it.

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January 21, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, January 20, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1352: The End Of My Daily Coverage

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In response to inquiries from Peter J. Reilly (Forbes) and Brian Leiter (University of Chicago Law School), I previously discussed when I would stop my daily coverage of the IRS Scandal:

My answer is the same as it has been throughout the scandal: I will stop when the daily commentary in the press and blogosphere on the scandal (from both the right and the left) ends. At several points in the scandal, as I was running out of content, a new chapter would unfold and my daily coverage would continue. Currently, the scandal has gone mostly quiet and I have only a few posts left in the queue. So it may be that my daily coverage will end soon, and will be resumed if and when the scandal heats up again.

With Donald Trump's inauguration, I am ending my daily coverage as the scandal again has gone mostly quiet.  I will continue to sporadically blog the scandal when there is news about it (indeed, I have a post in the queue for tomorrow).  But I will no longer provide coverage each day.  I hope readers have found my coverage useful, and will continue to come here for updates on the scandal.

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January 20, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (20)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1351:  Two Federal Judges Order Five Officials To Preserve Emails Sought In FOIA Lawsuits; Judicial Watch Fears Another Lois Lerner Situation As Obama Administration Leaves Power

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Politico, Judge Orders 4 Homeland Security Officials to Preserve Private-Account Emails:

A federal judge has ordered four current or former top officials at the Department of Homeland Security, including Secretary Jeh Johnson, to preserve emails in their private accounts that may be responsive to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss issued the order Wednesday morning to Johnson, former Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, former chief of staff Christian Marrone, and former General Counsel Stevan Bunnell, telling them to copy relevant messages to thumb drives.

Moss said the Justice Department indicated that all four men agreed to preserve any responsive messages that might be in their private accounts, but he still granted the preservation order sought by the conservative group Judicial Watch, which said it feared the government might lose easy access to the records as Obama appointees ship out.

“Given the Department’s representation, the Court has no reason to doubt that the four individuals have agreed to comply fully with their obligations to preserve any potentially responsive emails and that they have every intention of doing so,” wrote Moss, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

“Nonetheless, out of the abundance of caution, the Court will order an additional preservation step to minimize the risk of any inadvertent loss of potentially responsive emails. Specifically, the Court will order the individuals to copy any emails from the relevant time period in any private email accounts that might contain responsive materials onto portable thumb drives, to be kept in the individuals’ personal possessions,” the judge added. “Copying the emails to a physical drive will minimize the risk that any responsive email might be inadvertently deleted.” ...

In a separate Judicial Watch case before another judge, the Justice Department indicated Wednesday that one of its top officials has no record of an email he apparently sent to a top Clinton campaign official in May 2015 previewing an upcoming congressional hearing and an expected DOJ filing in a court case related to Clinton’s emails.

Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Peter Kadzik sent the message with the subject line “Heads Up” to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Clinton campaign aides said the communication was routine, but Donald Trump’s campaign has alleged it showed improper collusion between Justice and the Clinton camp. The contact is one focus of a Justice inspector general investigation announced last week.

The message from Kadzik to Podesta was one of tens of thousands of messages that were hacked from Podesta’s account and posted online by WikiLeaks during the campaign in an effort U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was part of a Russian government-led drive to influence the U.S. presidential election and bolster Trump’s chances. ...

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a preservation order Wednesday at Judicial Watch’s request and instructed the government to report by this morning on its efforts to comply.

Before It's News, Federal Judge Orders DHS Officials to Not Destroy Email:

Even though the judge says the doesn’t doubt their intent, of course he does. He’d have to have been utterly brain dead to not see what is going on from Lois Lerner to Hillary Clinton and beyond. Even as this was happening, another federal judge was discovering that the word of an Obama official that they’d complied with the law wasn’t worth a whole lot.

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January 19, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1350:  Even Trump Adviser Buys Myth Of 'Scandal-Free Administration,' Despite IRS, Five Other Scandals

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Wall Street Journal: Obama’s ‘Scandal-Free Administration’ Is a Myth, by John Fund (National Review) & Hans Von Spakovsky (Heritage Foundation):

You often hear that the Obama administration, whatever its other failings, has been “scandal-free.” Valerie Jarrett, the president’s closest adviser, has said he “prides himself on the fact that his administration hasn’t had a scandal and he hasn’t done something to embarrass himself.”

Even Trump adviser Peter Thiel seems to agree. When the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd observed during an interview that Mr. Obama’s administration was “without any ethical shadiness,” Mr. Thiel accepted the premise, saying: “But there’s a point where no corruption can be a bad thing. It can mean that things are too boring.”

In reality, Mr. Obama has presided over some of the worst scandals of any president in recent decades. Here’s a partial list: ...

IRS abuses. Mr. Obama’s Internal Revenue Service did something Richard Nixon only dreamed of doing: It successfully targeted political opponents. The Justice Department then refused to enforce Congress’s contempt citation against the IRS’s Lois Lerner, who refused to answer questions about her agency’s misconduct. ...

All of these scandals were accompanied by a lack of transparency so severe that 47 of Mr. Obama’s 73 inspectors general signed an open letter in 2014 decrying the administration’s stonewalling of their investigations. ...

The president’s journalistic allies are happily echoing the “scandal-free” myth. Time’s Joe Klein claims Mr. Obama has had “absolutely no hint of scandal” in his presidency. The media’s failure to cover the Obama administration critically has been a scandal in itself—but at least the president can’t be blamed for that one.

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January 18, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1349:  Peggy Noonan On The Obama Presidency And The IRS Scandal

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Wall Street Journal op-ed: The Trump Cabinet’s Good Opening Week, by Peggy Noonan:

Mr. Obama’s has not been a successful presidency. In foreign affairs his two terms, added to George W. Bush’s two terms, produced 16 years of unsuccess—an entire generation. Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations, put it gently in conversation this week: Mr. Bush tried to do too much, which was unrealistic; Mr. Obama attempted too little, its own, perhaps more consequential unrealism.

In domestic matters he put all his chips on health care and bullied it through without a single Republican vote, leaving his party fully owning it and the other with no investment in saving it. His relationship with Congress started out at impasse, proceeded to fraught and ended in estrangement. He saw this all as the other side’s fault. In his dealings with the Hill he was often imperious, sometimes a snot. He allowed executive agencies such as the IRS to ruin their public reputations and stonewall scandal after scandal. His most famous words as president came not in formal addresses but extemporaneous misjudgments—“red line,” ISIS as the “jayvee team”—plus an attempt to mislead: “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

He left his party weaker, in terms of public offices held, than at any point since the 1920s.

He spent an unprecedented amount of time campaigning against, and assailing in the bitterest terms, his successor. Donald Trump was “uniquely unqualified,” “temperamentally unfit.” America chose him anyway. They were choosing Mr. Obama’s exact opposite, just as in choosing Sen. Obama in 2008 they went with the opposite of Mr. Bush. When they want the opposite of what you are, they are not registering approval.

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January 17, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, January 16, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1348: How The Trump Administration Can Stop IRS Abuse Of Political Groups

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Weekly Standard, How the Trump Administration Can Stop IRS Abuse of Political Groups:

For more than six years, the Internal Revenue Service has been trying to fend off accusations that its process for granting tax-exempt status discriminated against applicants expressing political views at odds with those of the Obama administration. This discrimination against political viewpoints the Democrats disapprove of is a clear, even astonishing, violation of the First Amendment. For that reason, the IRS has lost many more of these battles than it has won. It’s lost battles not only in court against the victimized non-profits; it’s even lost against the Treasury Department’s own inspector general, which conducted a detailed study and concluded that many of the most serious accusations of discrimination were true.

In its court battles the IRS has been represented by the Justice Department, whose job it is to represent federal agencies when they are sued. No one will be shocked to learn that under the Obama administration, and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, DOJ lawyers have used every tool at their disposal to defeat the IRS’s accusers even when those accusers are agreeing with Treasury’s inspector general. That means that, according to the Obama administration’s own inspector general report, those victimized non-profits are right in claiming that they were discriminated against because of their political views.

That litigation strategy needs to change.

Upon President Trump’s inauguration, the Justice Department will get a new boss: Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. The moment he takes office, General Sessions should direct the Justice Department lawyers—all of whom report to him—to change their litigation stance to reflect an important adage about how government lawyers should do business: “the government wins when justice is done.”

It’s time to see that justice is done in these cases.

Up until now, the government’s strategy has been to make the IRS cases take as long as possible and to resist every demand for discovery—the process by which litigants can request that their adversaries produce documents, or provide testimony, revealing what was really going on inside the IRS.

I represent the plaintiff in one of these cases—Z STREET v. Koskinen—which challenges the IRS’s six year delay in processing the application for tax-exempt status by an organization whose views on the Middle East were at odds with President Obama’s. In discovery, we’ve asked for information about how the IRS went about deciding what to do with (and to) our organization. But the IRS has produced virtually nothing that sheds light on its decision-making process. Other organizations in court against the IRS have been given the same treatment by the Justice Department’s litigation teams.

All of the members of those government lawyer teams report to the U.S. Attorney General. That means that when the new sheriff arrives in town he can give new orders on how these cases ought to be handled.

Attorney General Sessions should direct these lawyers to stop resisting discovery, and to stop trying to prevent the litigants—and the public—from finding out what the IRS was really doing to all of these organizations for all these years. This is not a matter of political payback, like the question whether Hillary Clinton ought to be prosecuted for what many think are her misdeeds, at the State Department and with the Clinton Foundation. It’s just a matter of letting the truth be told. Z STREET, like many of the plaintiffs in the other cases against the IRS, is not seeking money damages. We just want to know the truth about what the IRS was doing to us, and why, and at whose direction.

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January 16, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1347:  IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins Resigns, Effective Jan. 20; GOP Questioned His Role In Tea Party Targeting

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Accounting Today, IRS Names Acting Chief Counsel Following William Wilkins’ Departure:

The Internal Revenue Service has chosen William M. Paul to step into the role of acting chief counsel after William Wilkins stepped down this week. ...

Wilkins has been the IRS’s chief counsel since 2009. Like many Obama administration officials, he is leaving just ahead of the incoming Trump administration. He is one of only two political appointees at the IRS.

Wilkins drew some controversy in the midst of the Tea Party targeting scandal in 2013 when it was revealed that he had met with President Obama only two days before the IRS provided new guidance to its Exempt Organizations unit on how to handle applications for tax-exempt status from political groups. Wilkins testified before Congress that he didn’t recall many of the details of his interactions with Treasury Department officials during the period when the new guidance was being drawn up, provoking outraged reactions from Republican leaders of the House Oversight Committee blasting him for his cautious testimony. ...

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen [said] ... "I also want to thank Bill Wilkins for nearly eight years of dedicated service here as Chief Counsel at the IRS. As many in the wider tax community recognize, Bill has done an exceptional job leading the legal division of the IRS during a challenging period.”

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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January 15, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (11)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1346:  The Trump Dossier, The Left, And Tea Party Targeting

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Wall Street Journal: Dumpster Diving for Dossiers, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Washington and the press corps are feuding over the Trump “dossier,” screaming about what counts as “fake news.” The pity is that this has turned into a story about media ethics. The far better subject is the origin of the dossier itself.

“Fake news” doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s created by people with an agenda. This dossier—which alleges that Donald Trump has deep backing from Russia—is a turbocharged example of the smear strategy that the left has been ramping up for a decade. Team Trump needs to put the scandal in that context so that it can get to governing and better defuse the next such attack.

The more that progressives have failed to win political arguments, the more they have turned to underhanded tactics to shut down their political opponents. (For a complete account of these abuses, see my book, “The Intimidation Game.”) Liberals co-opted the IRS to crack down on Tea Party groups. They used state prosecutors to launch phony investigations. They coordinated liberal shock troops to threaten corporations. And they—important for today’s hysteria—routinely employed outside dirt diggers to engage in character assassination.

This editorial page ran a series in 2012 about one such attack, on Frank VanderSloot. In 2011 the Idaho businessman gave $1 million to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney. The following spring, the Obama re-election campaign publicly smeared Mr. VanderSloot (and seven other Romney donors) as “wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records.”

This national shaming, by the president no less, painted a giant target on Mr. VanderSloot’s back. The liberal media slandered him daily on TV and in print. The federal bureaucracy went after him: He was ultimately audited by the IRS and the Labor Department.

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January 14, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1345:  Donald Trump, The Intelligence Community, And Lois Lerner

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Communities Digital News, Chuck Schumer and the CIA Like Their Targets Shaken, Not Stirred:

Between 2010 and 2012, roughly 426 conservative organizations were targeted for extra scrutiny by the IRS. A 298-page report by the Office of Inspector General says the IRS targeted organizations for harassment with names that included the words “tea,” “liberty,” “patriot” or “constitution” in their titles.

Subsequent congressional hearings revealed the IRS colluded with the Justice Department, the Federal Election Commission and leading Democratic members of Congress on which tea party groups to target. One of those congressional members is today’s Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer.

In 2012, Schumer joined several of his Democratic colleagues in drafting a letter urging the IRS to investigate tea party organizations “focused on federal election activities” and applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.

When Democrats lost control of the U.S. Senate in 2014, Schumer expressed his fear to members of the Center for American Progress that tea party groups could out fundraise Democratic-friendly organizations, thus purchasing more commercial time for political ads.

“It is clear that we will not pass anything legislatively [to curtail tea party influence] as long as the House of Representatives is in Republican control, but there are many things that can be done administratively by the IRS and other government agencies—we must redouble those efforts immediately,” Schumer said.

When Lois Lerner, who headed the tax-exempt division of the IRS, was subpoenaed to appear before congress to explain her agency’s targeting, she exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She eventually resigned, with the Obama Justice Department exonerating her of any criminal wrongdoing.

Lerner is retired and drawing a comfortable federal pension.

History, they say, is prelude. ...

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow described Trump’s skepticism of America’s spy agencies as “taking shots,” “antagonism” and “taunting of the intelligence community.”

Schumer, her guest, peered over his bifocal readers and spoke in hushed tones, “[If] you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday to come back at you. So, even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”

Tuesday, Buzzfeed released a leaked, 35-page dossier supposedly compiled by British intelligence officer Christopher Steele—and in the possession of U.S. intelligence agencies—containing unsubstantiated claims Russian intelligence possess compromising information on Trump for purposes of blackmail and, incredibly, claiming Trump is in essence a Russian spy. ...

Move over IRS. The shadowy U.S. intelligence community, with its state-of-the-art domestic and global spying operations, missile-bearing drones and license to kill, is morphing into a political targeting apparatus beyond Lois Lerner’s wildest dreams.

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January 13, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1344:  Democrats Remind Jeff Sessions AG Enforces 'Every Law,' Yet Were Silent When DOJ Declined To Prosecute Lois Lerner

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Western Journalism Review, Democrats Remind Jeff Sessions AG Enforces 'Every Law,' They Were Silent These 7 Times Under Obama:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) reminded Sessions and America that the Attorney General must enforce every law, regardless of the nation's top law enforcement official's views on those laws. ...

While it's absolutely imperative that Sessions uphold the rule of law if he's confirmed, that charge is a little hypocritical as President Obama's Attorney Generals ignored laws that went against the Obama Administration's agenda.

Here are seven times Obama's Attorney Generals side-stepped the law. ...

3. DOJ Concluded IRS Scrutiny Of Tea Party Groups Wasn't Politically Motivated, Despite Evidence To The Contrary

On October 23, 2015, the Department of Justice announced that it would not bring charges against Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official who was at the center of the conservative targeting controversy.

The IRS admitted to inappropriately targeting groups with the words “patriot” or “tea party” in their names for increased scrutiny of their tax-exempt applications.

Lerner, who oversaw the tax-exempt section of the IRS, denied that the targeting was politically motivated and DOJ announced that it concluded the IRS's actions were not politically motivated. In a letter to Congress, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said:

We found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution.”

Republicans blasted the IRS when it was discovered that 24,000 of Lerner's emails were lost and could not be recovered.

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January 12, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (10)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1343:  IRS Let Lois Lerner Off The Hook By Paying $12 Million For Email Backup System It Did Not Use

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Daily Caller, ‘Wastebook’ Reveals IRS Wrong-Doing, IT Errors During Lerner Scandal:

Even as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was struggling to explain to Congress why it could not produce copies of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails, the agency was paying $12 million for an email backup system that it could not and did not use.

The agency’s inability helped Lerner get off the hook for using the IRS to target conservative and Tea Party nonprofit applicants during the 2010 and 2012 campaigns.

Soon after the Lerner scandal, IRS officials bought the system designed to prevent the loss of emails, but then didn’t bother to turn it on. They also broke federal procurement rules in how they bought the system.

The fiasco was highlighted by Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, in the latest edition of his Wastebook, released Tuesday.

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January 11, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1342:  New Chair of House Oversight Committee Pledges To Increase IRS Accountability

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The Hill, Oversight Panel Will Focus on IRS, Medicare, New Chairman Says:

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's oversight panel, said the subcommittee's priorities in the 115th Congress will include combating fraud in Medicare and Social Security, increasing IRS accountability, and protecting people from identity theft.

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January 10, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 9, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1341:  Another View Of The Republicans' Reactivation Of The Holman Rule And Lois Lerner

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The Moderate Voice: Preventing the Upcoming Barbarian Apocalypse, by Hart Williams:

House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to a $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service. The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to offer an amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program. ...

[W]hat does this mean? Well it means that any congressman or senator (almost exclusively GOP) can, in essence, terminate/eliminate almost any civil service employee who incites their wrath. ...

This is a de facto prescription to overturn ALL regulatory enforcement that the “Free Market” pirates of the House GOP deem “bad for business.” And, for a year, the Republicans in Congress can PURGE the Civil Service of all those “obstructionist” employees who insist on doing their jobs as prescribed by law. Think of what they did to Lois Lerner of the IRS, for example, who only attempted to enforce the charitable regulations of the IRS code. In a little-noted move thereafter, the GOP congress essentially gutted all 501(c)4 provisions, making it perfectly legal to launder dark money with zero accountability for political purposes — a complete overturning of the original intent of Congress in CREATING the section 501 provisions prohibiting charitable activities from being partisan POLITICAL activities, or, in essence, allowing the rich to engage in politics on your dime, Mr. and Mrs. US Taxpayer.

The implications of this “rule” are staggering when you apply the “if this goes on” test to it. And recall that you don’t really need to go after ALL civil service employees to create a chilling effect. Just make a few examples of “uppity” civil servants.

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January 9, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (13)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1340:  Tax Professors Discuss The Future Of Tax Administration And Enforcement After 'What The Media Often Refer To As The 'IRS Targeting Scandal''

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Association of American Law Schools Annual Meeting Discussion Group, The Future of Tax Administration and Enforcement (Jan. 7, 2016):

AALS Discussion Groups provide an in-depth discussion of a topic by a small group of invited discussants selected in advance by the Annual Meeting Program Committee. In addition to the invited discussants, additional discussants were selected through a Call for Participation. There will be limited seating for audience members to observe the discussion groups on a first-come, firstserved basis.

Enforcement and effective administration of tax laws pose challenges for every country, developed and developing. Moreover, how the tax law is administered determines the substantive effects of the laws on the books.

In the United States, the agency responsible for helping taxpayers voluntarily comply with federal tax laws and for coercing the recalcitrant into complying—the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—is not only underfunded, its image was badly damaged by what the media often refer to as the “IRS targeting scandal.” The IRS is thus in crisis. Over the last couple of years, it has reduced service to taxpayers, reduced enforcement efforts, experienced hacks of its confidential taxpayer information, and sent out billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds claimed by identity thieves. Other tax collection agencies, both in U.S. and abroad, also struggle with resource and cybersecurity issues.

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January 8, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)