TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1339:  House GOP Reactivates 'Holman Rule,' Would Have Permitted Reducing Lois Lerner's Pay To $1

IRS Logo 2Washington Post, House Republicans Revive Obscure Rule That Allows Them to Slash the Pay of Individual Federal Workers to $1:

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 $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 propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program.

The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials. ...

Democrats and federal employee unions say the provision, which one called the “Armageddon Rule,” could prove alarming to the federal workforce because it comes in combination with President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the Washington bureaucracy, his call for a freeze on government hiring and his nomination of Cabinet secretaries who in some cases seem to be at odds with the mission of the agencies they would lead.

Weekly Standard, House GOP Revives Rule Allowing Them To Slash Salaries of Corrupt Federal Workers:

[T]here can be no question that federal workers have far too many civil service protections. After the IRS held a press conference admitting that they had improperly targeted conservative groups, Lois Lerner, the IRS official deemed most responsible, didn't face any meaningful consequences. Instead it was revealed that she recently received $129,000 in bonuses and retired with an annual pension that could possibly exceed $100,000.

Even after Lerner left, John Koskinen, the new interim head of the IRS, ignored congressional subpoenas as the IRS destroyed evidence relating to the investigation of Lerner and engaged in egregious stonewalling. It's pretty clear that the IRS was in no way fearful of suffering any consequences for persecuting thousands of ordinary Americans and flouting Congress.

Western Journalism, GOP House Revives 140-Year-Old Rule That Has Swamp-Dwelling Bureaucrats Sweating Bullets:

The rule would let lawmakers target civil servants who abuse their posts but still have union protections. The rule could, for instance, have been used on former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner, locus of the IRS’ intimidation scandal.

While Lerner faced minimal consequences for her wide-ranging role in the scandal — she refused to reveal much of anything to congressional investigators — The Weekly Standard pointed out that she received $129,000 in bonuses and a yearly pension that could top $100,000.

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January 7, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (12)

Friday, January 6, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1338:  Commissioner Koskinen Says Trump Transition Team Has No 'Axes To Grind' Against IRS

IRS Logo 2The Hill, IRS Chief: Agency's Discussions With Trump Team 'Very Positive':

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Thursday that his agency has had “very positive discussions” with the Trump transition team.

“They’ve been very straight-forward, very factual ... productive discussions,” Koskinen told reporters.

Republicans have frequently criticized the IRS, particularly in the wake of 2013 revelations that the agency had subjected conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status to extra scrutiny.

But Koskinen said there’s been no indication that transition officials have “any axes to grind” or any focus other than learning about how the IRS operates.

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

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1337:  The IRS Is The Third Biggest 'Tax Offender Of 2016'

IRS Logo 2Taxable Talk: The 2016 Tax Offender of the Year, by Russ Fox:

Every year I hope that I won’t find any deserving individuals of the Tax Offender of the Year Award. To win this award, you need to do more than cheat on your taxes; it has to be a Bozo-like action or actions. As usual, we had plenty of nominees.

Coming in third this year is the Internal Revenue Service. What did the IRS do to deserve this award? Well, we have the IRS Scandal; it’s still unresolved. If we were to believe the IRS nothing untoward happened! I’m sure that’s why Commissioner Koskinen faced an impeachment resolution. And remember the data breaches? It wasn’t 104,000 people who were victimized back in 2015 (the “Get Transcript Hack) nor was it 334,000 taxpayers. There were over 700,000 people impacted (and over 500,000 unsuccessful attempts)! As Joe Kristan says, “The IRS: Protecting your identity since 1913.” Or not.

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January 5, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1336:  Fragmented Oversight Of Nonprofits In The United States

IRS Logo 2Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer (Notre Dame), Fragmented Oversight of Nonprofits in the United States: Does It Work? Can It Work?, 91 Chi.-Kent. L. Rev. 937 (2016):

The United States is well known for its distinctive, although not unique, division of political authority between the federal government and the various states. This division is particularly evident when it comes to oversight of nonprofit organizations. The historical focus of federal government oversight has been limited primarily to qualification for tax exemption and other tax benefits, with more plenary power resting with state authorities. Over time, however, the federal government’s role has come to overlap significantly with that of the states, and many nonprofits have become subject to regulation by multiple states as their operations and donor bases expand across state lines.

This Article draws on the growing literature addressing fragmentation of oversight in other contexts to identify possible advantages and disadvantages of such fragmentation with respect to nonprofits. It concludes that the current allocation of responsibilities between the states and the federal government, including the limited areas of overlap, results in relatively effective oversight given the resource and other constraints under which these governments operate. It further concludes, however, that there are certain areas where improvement is possible. More specifically, it recommends federal consolidation of information gathering and financing of oversight, increased coordination between the federal government and the states with respect to enforcement actions, and increased coordination among states with respect to regulation of charitable solicitations. It also recommends that the federal government should both halt and consider rolling back its encroachment into the legal requirements for governance of nonprofits as they relate to the primarily state law fiduciary duty of

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January 4, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1335:  Politics, Disclosure, And State Law Solutions For 501(c)(4) Organizations

IRS Logo 2Linda Sugin (Fordham), Politics, Disclosure, and State Law Solutions for 501(c)(4) Organizations, 91 Chi.-Kent. L. Rev. 895 (2016):

In 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suffered its worst scandal in a generation over its treatment of tea-party related organizations. Some of the facts are undisputed: Following the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, people rushed to organize section 501(c)(4) organizations that would be active in politics. The IRS was overwhelmed by applications, and the regulatory standard provided little guidance. The agents, who were not lawyers, used a shorthand to identify organizations that might not meet the standard of being “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” The Treasury watchdog found that “[t]he IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions.” Instead of identifying possible ineligible organizations by their names (including “Patriots” and “9/12”), the IRS should have determined eligibility for exemption by analyzing whether the organizations satisfied the regulatory requirements concerning political activity. Since that time, the IRS has been paralyzed in this area, and the Federal Election Commission has been deadlocked.

The post-Citizens United explosion of (c)(4) political activity—and the federal government's dysfunction—did not go unnoticed by the states. While the federal government was at an impasse, some states attempted to bridge the gap. Federal law determines tax exemption, but state law defines charitable and noncharitable nonprofit organizations and regulates their governance. If nonprofit organizations are operated to the detriment of the public interest, state attorneys general have the power to investigate and discipline them. New York and California have both attempted to address the same concerns about secret money in politics that led to the IRS scandal and proposed regulations.

This article asks whether the states can (and should) use state nonprofits law to solve the problem of dark money spent by nonprofit non-charitable organizations. Since the problem of (c)(4) politicking is not a revenue issue, the Internal Revenue Service is clearly not the ideal regulator. Dark money may be solely an election law problem, in which case it would be exclusively in the domain of the FEC and state election regulators, and not in the purview of state nonprofits law. However, if there are concerns about nonprofit organizations in politics that implicate the policies relating to nonprofits, there might be something beyond election law at issue that state nonprofit law might address. There are three reasons why state charity regulators might intervene in this area: (1) to protect charities, (2) to protect voters, and (3) to protect donors to nonprofit organizations. If dark money is damaging the reputation and integrity of the nonprofit sector as a whole, states may legitimately regulate noncharitable nonprofits to protect charities from negative consequences. The general public seems to confuse 501(c)(3) with 501(c)(4) organizations, failing to appreciate their legal distinction. Consequently, states have an interest in preventing reputational damage to charitable organizations on account of bad behavior by noncharitable nonprofit organizations. In addition, states may be justified in regulating politicking nonprofits to protect the public itself, either as donors or as voter. Much of state nonprofit law is designed to protect donors, so if regulating political speech is designed to protect donors who might unwittingly support political activity, then state nonprofits regulators are in a familiar institutional role. Donor confusion is understandable since 501(c)(4) organizations are categorized as “social welfare” organizations; donors may reasonably expect that their donations support social welfare activities, rather than politicking.

The final state policy, protecting the public as voters, veers away from nonprofits law into clear election law territory. Nevertheless, state attorneys general have an interest in preventing the public from being misled. State nonprofits law is already concerned with preventing fraud perpetrated by bogus charities and unscrupulous solicitors. If it is fraudulent to pretend to be someone else or to speak anonymously in a political communication, then nonprofit regulators might approach the problem as analogous to charitable solicitation. Both political campaign activity and charitable solicitations raise First Amendment issues. The Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down statutory limits on charitable solicitation under the First Amendment, but it has allowed states to prosecute charitable fundraisers for misleading potential donors.

This article proceeds as follows: The next Part provides a brief background to the current situation and explains why federal tax law is not the appropriate locus of regulation. After that, I describe the steps that California and New York have taken to reduce the influence of dark money in their elections. Both states were motivated by specific incidents involving out-of-state interests, and both states faced substantial pressures from constituencies opposed to regulation. Part IV considers possible state law policies for regulating dark money, and Part V considers the regulatory solutions that correspond to those policies. Part VI steps back to assess the desirability of state nonprofit law regulation, considering the legal and practical problems with states undertaking this regulation. Although the states can achieve some important goals, the conclusion in Part VII expresses skepticism at the states' ability to solve the (c)(4) politicking mess.

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January 3, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 2, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1334:  The IRS’s Diminished Role In Overseeing Tax-Exempt Organizations

IRS Logo 2Evelyn Brody (Chicago-Kent) & Marcus Owens (Loeb & Loeb, Washington, D.C.), Exile to Main Street: The I.R.S.’s Diminished Role in Overseeing Tax-Exempt Organizations, 91 Chi.-Kent. L. Rev. 859 (2016):

The Chicago-Kent conference on charity oversight took place on Day 924 of the TaxProf blog's “IRS Scandal”—Day 1 being the Friday two-and-a-half years ago that the Internal Revenue Service's Lois Lerner apologized for inappropriate use of Tea Party and other names in selecting applicants for Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(4) status for further review. This article examines the IRS's role in administering the regime for federally tax-exempt organizations. Our focus, however, should not obscure the very real corrosive impact, whether deserved or pretextual, that the IRS's exempt-organization imbroglio has had on the health of the entire agency, and thus to the revenue needs of the federal government.

The IRS—an agency which in the best of times suffers from a siege—is now starved for resources both financial and political. The IRS has predictably and understandably responded to the “scandal” by retreating into a shell of bureaucratic reshuffling, management mumbo-jumbo, and paper moving. There has never been a better time to apply for tax-exempt status or push the boundaries of permissible activities.

Will the IRS's decision to exile the Exempt Organization Division from Washington, D.C. to Cincinnati save the agency as well as the exempt-organization function by removing its operations from the glare of Washington's perpetual partisan politics? Or will this attempt to jettison the albatross from the sinking ship instead stifle the effectiveness of the IRS's role in charity and nonprofit oversight, suggesting—as co-author Marcus Owens has written about at length—the need for a new and independent agency to carry out that role?

This article proceeds in three parts. Part I describes the framework for federally tax-exempt organizations engaged in advocacy and political activity, and recites the sorry saga of the recent unpleasantness. Part II summarizes the IRS's managerial reaction. Part III focuses on the IRS's new procedure for granting speedy recognition of tax-exemption to new small charities—perhaps setting the agency up for the next debacle. Our conclusion sets out the not-so-great choices, mindful that the goal is to avoid making the wrong mistake. ...

On July 21, 2015, President Barack Obama commented to Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central: “When there was that problem with the IRS, everyone jumped . . ., saying, ‘Look, you've got this back office, and they're going after the Tea Party.’ Well, it turned out, no, Congress had passed a crummy law that didn't give people guidance in terms of what it was they were trying to do. They did it poorly and stupidly.” The president added: “The truth of the matter is that there was not some big conspiracy there. They [(the IRS)] were trying to sort out these conflicting demands. You don't want all this money pouring through not-for-profits, but you also want to make sure everybody is being treated fairly.” Alluding to the bigger problem, he emphasized: “Now, the real scandal around the IRS right now is that it has been so poorly funded that they cannot go after these folks who are deliberately avoiding tax payments . . . .”

Jon Stewart, of course, did not point out to the president that ambiguous concepts—such as “unrelated business activity” and “educational”—are the hallmark of the federal tax rules applicable to tax—exempt organizations, and have defied specific definition since their enactment.

The IRS has taken a series of major organizational and procedural steps, clearly moving as quickly as it can to address the May 2013 TIGTA Report's recommendations and to align the Exempt Organizations Division (and the Employee Plans Division) with the organizational structures of the rest of the IRS National Office. These changes, though, are being developed by an entirely new cadre of senior management, virtually all of whom lack significant experience in the function or with the tasks required to administer the relevant substantive sections of the Internal Revenue Code.

In addition, the agency is proceeding piecemeal, focusing initially on the exemption-application processing function, to be followed at some point by a review of the examination function. In view of the huge amounts of funds flowing into the nonprofit sector, particularly to social welfare organizations exempt under section 501(c)(4), the IRS's sense of urgency is understandable. However, this emphasis on granting recognition of exemptions now and (possibly) asking questions later does not seem sustainable. The nonprfit sector and practitioners should be alert to developments to target noncompliance, as they are likely to occur quickly, and without an opportunity for public comment and discussion. In addition, the decoupling of the enforcement function from the interpretative function, now located in a different organization unit (the Office of Chief Counsel), suggests that there may be a greater risk for inconsistent or incorrect positions being taken in IRS audits.

As for small charities, regardless of whether Congress or the IRS adopts the five-year provisional-exemption proposal described in Part III, the agency should expand information collection. Importantly, a charity that grows sufficiently—which could happen even before five years pass—will have to file a Form 990-EZ or even a Form 990. Thus, the IRS should require a successful Form 1023-EZ applicant, when it first files one of those information returns, to submit the organizational documents and certain other information (notably, about activities and related party transactions and relationships) that would have been required on a full Form 1023 application. In addition, the IRS should continue sampling to ensure the eligibility of 1023-EZ applicants.

The bigger question—should the IRS be the locus of federal regulation of charities?—might more usefully be narrowed to “should the IRS be the locus of regulation for political activity by tax-exempt organizations?” If significant abuse arises, particularly if due even in part to the reduction in scrutiny of applications for tax-exempt status and in audit enforcement, one of us has proposed that it might be appropriate to move the entire regulatory function over tax-exempt organizations to a different governmental or quasi-governmental structure.

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1333:  Republicans Weasel Out Of Impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen

IRS Logo 2Canada Free Pass, Republicans Weasel Out of Impeaching IRS Boss John Koskinen:

Republican leaders managed to derail a measure to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen ..., sending the debate back to a committee for more study, where it will die when the Congress adjourns at the end of this year.

Conservatives had pushed for impeaching Mr. Koskinen, saying he cannot be allowed to get away with having misled Congress on the investigation into the IRS’s tea party targeting.

But GOP leaders, eager to clean up business and shut down for the year, ahead of a busy 2017, led the push to shunt the impeachment aside. Joined by Democrats, the House voted 342-72 to send the debate back to the Judiciary Committee.

“Members have different opinions about what to do,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican and committee chairman, as he asked lawmakers to give him a chance to sort things out. But with lawmakers looking to clear out of town this week, the move essentially kills the impeachment drive in this Congress. Democrats had tried to expunge the impeachment resolution altogether, but lost a test vote on a near party-line tally.

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January 1, 2017 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1332:  The House GOP's Ridiculous Impeachment Crusade

IRS Logo 2MSNBC The MaddowBlog, Congress Holds IRS Impeachment Vote as Trump Eyes New Commissioner:

The 114th Congress is, mercifully, nearly over, but as we saw yesterday, lawmakers aren’t quite done considering ridiculous ideas. The Wall Street Journal reported:

The House of Representatives turned aside an attempt by conservative hard-liners to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his handling of congressional investigations into the tax agency.

Instead, in a 342-72 vote, the House sent the issue back to the Judiciary Committee, which hasn’t held a formal impeachment hearing or voted on the matter.

The vote effectively ends the impeachment crusade, at least for a while. The House’s GOP majority could start the process anew next year, but there wouldn’t be any point. The fact that this even reached the House floor yesterday is something of an embarrassment. Circling back to our previous coverage, the IRS “scandal” was discredited years ago — Koskinen wasn’t even at the tax agency when the imaginary controversy unfolded — and as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) documented in May, charges that Koskinen was part of some kind of after-the-fact cover-up don’t make any sense.

Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty — the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, a sizable group of far-right House Republicans have tried to impeach him, for reasons even they have struggled to explain.

Of course, whether or not Congress approves, Koskinen won’t lead the IRS much longer. As the Journal’s article added, Koskinen, who’s now 77, “serves a fixed term that ends in November 2017. [Donald Trump] could force him out or could wait until the end of Mr. Koskinen’s term and appoint his successor, who must be confirmed by the Senate.”

And that raises some interesting possibilities. Politico reported a couple of weeks ago that Trump will be in a position to nominate Koskinen’s successor, and there’s nothing to stop the Republican president “from appointing an IRS chief who will go easy on him.” ...

Trump may soon name the head of an agency that’s examining whether Trump broke the law. What could possibly go wrong?

Postscript: One more relevant tidbit from the Politico piece: “The IRS also reviews the president’s and vice president’s returns each year, but those audits aren’t required by law, and Trump could stop them.”

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December 31, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, December 30, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1331:  Rep. Jim Jordan Offers Resolution To Impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1330:  House Republicans And Democrats Forge Rare Bipartisan Agreement To Block Impeachment Of IRS Commissioner

IRS Logo 2Breitbart News, House Republicans Join Democrats to Block Impeachment of IRS Commissioner:

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, House Republicans and House Democrats came together to block a privileged motion by members of the House Freedom Caucus aimed at forcing the whole House to vote on the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

From the House floor, Rep. Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, forcefully called for the House to hold the commissioner accountable by passing House Resolution 828, calling for the impeachment of Koskinen for high crimes and misdemeanors.

As the Ohio congressman began to speak, House Democrats began to clamor in disapproval. Turning to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle, Jordan said: “You might want to listen to what we have to say first and then you can moan and groan.” ...

Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) made the motion to table consideration of the bill, which would have effectively killed the bill, given that there are fewer than 10 business days left on the session’s calendar. That motion failed, 180-to-230.

Then, it was time for the Republicans to kill their own proposal. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R.-Va.) offered a motion to table to his committee, which passed 342-to-72.

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December 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1329:  Did The IRS's Targeting Of Conservative Groups Lead It To Grant Tax-Exempt Status To 'Hate Groups'?

IRS Logo 2Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dozens of ‘Hate Groups’ Have Charity Status, Chronicle Study Finds:

The federal government has granted tax-exempt status to more than 60 controversial nonprofits branded by critics as "hate groups," including anti-immigrant and anti-gay-rights organizations, white nationalists, and Holocaust deniers, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy analysis.

The issue is a thorny one for the Internal Revenue Service, which must balance First Amendment rights against concerns that it is essentially granting government subsidies to groups holding views that millions of Americans may find abhorrent. Complicating matters, the IRS is already under fire from critics who say the agency has discriminated against conservative political organizations. ...

Still shaken by the revelation that agency leaders had singled out conservative advocacy groups’ applications for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, the IRS has little incentive to investigate organizations based on the content of their messages.

The Surly Subgroup:  White Nationalists Groups are Charitable? Apparently so According to IRS, by Phillip Hackney (LSU):

How do [hate groups] qualify [for tax exempt status]? ... There are two answers. ...

Reason 2: The IRS is afraid. This seems like a reasonable argument after all the Tea Party difficulties that the IRS experienced, BUT . . . the IRS has denied other controversial groups tax exemption who are ostensibly educating as well. See: Principle Voices of Polygamy private letter ruling where the IRS denied a group advocating for polygamy on the basis that what it violated public policy by advocating for something that is illegal. The point is that the IRS went after an advocacy group in 2013. With that said, the Tea Party controversy occurred in 2013 and so maybe this is a reason it would not go after such groups now.

Salon, White Nationalists Have Raised Millions Thanks to Tax-Exempt Charities:

Some tax experts said the IRS is still feeling the sting from conservative critics over its 2013 concession that it unfairly gave extra scrutiny to tea party groups seeking tax exemptions. “I don’t think they’re feeling very brave right now,” said Ellen Aprill, a tax law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

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December 28, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1328:  House's Referral Back To Judiciary Committee Is Likely To Kill Koskinen Impeachment

IRS Logo 2Forbes: House Says No To Renewed Efforts To Impeach IRS Commissioner, by Kelly Phillips Erb:

A motion to table the measure failed while a motion to simply refer the matter back to the Judiciary Committee passed with a 342-72 vote. The final tally showed 166 Republicans joining 176 Democrats to vote yes, 72 Republicans voting no, and 19 members who did not vote. You can see how your Representative voted here.

If that sounds like progress, it's not: it's a step backward. Earlier this year, the House sidestepped a similar resolution introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to move impeachment proceedings forward; yet another resolution from the fall of 2015 also failed

Since impeachment is a legal proceeding, while anyone can make a motion to start the process, the Judiciary Committee determines whether there are sufficient grounds for impeachment. With respect to this matter, Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) scheduled hearings to investigate the matter: the third was held in September. Following those hearings, the Judiciary Committee did not bring a resolution or recommendation to the floor, and there is no reason to believe that the result will be any different this time.

In fact, this week, Goodlatte indicated that there were differences of opinion in the House regarding the measure to impeach Koskinen. The House would need a majority of votes to impeach the Commissioner and move the measure to the Senate. All 183 Democrats in the House are expected to vote against impeachment, and a number of Republicans will likely follow suit.

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December 27, 2016 in Congressional News, IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 26, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1327:  Delay In Koskinen Impeachment Is Discordant Note In Kumbaya Between Trump And GOP Congress

IRS Logo 2Washington Post, It’s Mostly Kumbaya So Far for Trump and GOP in Congress:

President-elect Donald Trump is signaling a cease-fire in his battle with the Republican leadership in Congress, which he repeatedly skewered during his election-season attacks on the Washington establishment.

Trump has, by all accounts, patched up his once-turbulent relationship with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). To fill top jobs in his administration, Trump has chosen five sitting lawmakers, as well as the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). And he has passed up opportunities to meddle in congressional business in ways that might have pleased his populist base but frustrated Republican leaders.

The detente in Trump’s war on GOP leaders reflects the unifying power of victory, the moderating influence of Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and, most of all, a shared desire to make good on years of Republican campaign promises. ...

But it is clear that the members of Trump’s inner circle often are not on the same page, which could spell trouble for his legislative agenda.

For instance, members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus claimed to have Trump’s backing when they defied Ryan and launched an early-December bid to impeach Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen.

Priebus intervened in an attempt to halt a floor vote, as reported by Politico, but conservatives forced one anyway. The Freedom Caucus was emboldened — and encouraged behind the scenes — by Bannon, whose former website, Breitbart News, wrote favorably about it, and by Bossie, who supported the impeachment push as president of Citizens United. Impeachment was effectively buried in the end, handing GOP leaders the win.

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December 26, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1326: Only 72 House Republicans Voted Against Delay In Impeachment Of IRS Commissioner

IRS Logo 2Atlanta Journal Constitution, House Refuses to Move Forward on Impeachment of IRS Chief:

A last minute effort in Congress to push for an impeachment vote against the head of the Internal Revenue Service fell far short of the votes needed for victory, leaving more conservative Republicans fuming about the message and the lack of support to further investigate the Obama Administration’s Tea Party targeting scandal.

Republicans led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) argued IRS Commissioner John Koskinen had deliberately refused to turn over documents to Congress, accusing him of actively impeding the Congressional investigation into the targeting of more conservative groups by the tax agency.

“Koskinen has gotten away with stonewalling Congress, obstructing justice, breaching public trust,” Jordan said. “It’s time Congress held him accountable.” ...

The final roll call though was not close, as the House voted 342-72 to send the matter to the Judiciary Committee, where it may simply die a quiet death. ... Here are the 72 Republicans who voted against delay on the IRS impeachment resolution:

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December 25, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1325: House Impeachment Leader Grills Witness Over Giving Koskinen 'Excellence In Public Service' Award

IRS Logo 2Government Executive, Lawmaker Seeking to Impeach IRS Chief Targets Public Service Award:

[A] House oversight hearing was supposed to address time-and-attendance troubles at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. But one congressman actively seeking the impeachment of the Internal Revenue commissioner used his time to question a good-government nonprofit for having given IRS chief John Koskinen a public service award.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, acted a day after the full House voted 342-72 to refer an impeachment motion favored by the Freedom Caucus to the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, where observers expect it to die. (House leaders have expressed fears that the resolution would only tie up the Senate.)

At the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subcommittee hearing on the Patent Office, Jordan reiterated his central complaint about Koskinen: that 422 backup tapes under congressional subpoena that may have contained 24,000 emails involving Lois Lerner, who was at the center of the dispute over alleged IRS bias against conservative nonprofits, were destroyed “on his watch.”

Jordan then zeroed in on David Chu, the president of the Institute for Defense Analyses who, separately, chaired the independent panel for the National Academy of Public Administration that performed a key study of Patent Office teleworking. “What does NAPA stand for?” Jordan asked. “Do you know who it gave the Elliot Richardson award to?” Chu did not recall. Jordan then stated it was Commissioner Koskinen who won the award last spring. “How was he chosen? Did he give money to NAPA?” Jordan asked Chu to speculate on “who was passed over” so Koskinen could get the award, but he declined.

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December 24, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, December 23, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1324: Ways & Means Committee Seeks Information From IRS About Continued Targeting Of Organizations Based On Political Beliefs — This Time, Pro-Israel Groups

IRS Logo 2House Ways & Means Committee Press Release, Brady, Roskam Send Letter Expressing Concern Over Continued IRS Targeting of Pro-Israel Groups:

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requesting information regarding the agency’s practice and policies when reviewing an organization’s application for tax-exempt status, specifically when the organization expresses support for the State of Israel. This letter is another part of the Committee’s aggressive oversight to hold the IRS accountable to the American taxpayer.

Despite the IRS’s assurances that it has ceased its targeting of people based on their political or ideological beliefs, Chairmen Brady and Roskam are concerned about recent reports suggesting the Obama Administration has directed the agency to discriminate against organizations supporting the State of Israel. These reports are especially concerning in light of the IRS’s previous practice of giving special scrutiny to pro-Israel applications for tax-exempt status.   The Chairmen expressed their displeasure with the IRS’s discriminatory actions, writing:

“It is distressing that the United States government subjected Americans to discriminatory treatment because of their political and religious beliefs. It is more distressing that it took seven years for one such group to get fair treatment by the IRS, even as the IRS told Congress that it no longer discriminated against such groups. And perhaps most alarmingly, recent press accounts suggest that even after all of this history, the IRS might even be pursuing new discriminatory policies … Despite the IRS’s claim to Congress that it stopped political targeting in 2013, the IRS and Administration’s actions over the past seven years lend credibility to these reports.”

The Chairmen request that the IRS respond with its tax-exempt review policies and procedures by January 11, 2017.

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December 23, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1323:  Tea Party Group Decries IRS's 'Latest Bob And Weave To Avoid Accountability'

IRS Logo 2Following up on yesterday's post, The IRS Scandal, Day 1322: Government Denies That It Continues To Harass Tea Party Group:  

Plaintiff Texas Patriots Tea Party’s Reply in Support of its Motion to Clarify Preliminary Injunction:

In its response, the IRS again reverses position. Three weeks ago, after it insisted it would deny TPTP unless it responded within 30 days, emergency relief was needed just to allow the current motion. Yet now, the IRS professes bewilderment: had TPTP only asked, its request would have been granted. This claim is stunning. Just a week before TPTP moved for relief, TPTP stated its position in a conference with the Court. A far from “amenable” IRS adamantly opposed it. The IRS rewrites history, perhaps, to obscure the true reason for its last-minute change of heart: it wants this Court to pronounce that the IRS’s new position is a benevolent accommodation of TPTP, outside of the “ordinary course.” This plea for the Court’s blessing is the sole remaining issue now that the IRS agrees to TPTP’s request, but this Court should deny it. The IRS’s latest bob and weave is another effort to avoid accountability. It cynically trades “accommodation” of TPTP for judicial approval of its continuing use of “neutral” policies that exacerbate the targeted groups’ injuries. Most depressingly, it shows that 42 months into this case, the IRS remains more focused on saving face than unwinding the harms it has caused.

Previous TaxProf Blog posts:

 

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December 22, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1322: Government Denies That It Continues To Harass Tea Party Group

IRS Logo 2Following up on my previous posts on NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. IRS, No 1:13-cv-00341 (S.D. Ohio):

United States' Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Clarify Preliminary Injunction (Dec. 14, 2016) (citations & footnotes omitted):

In its Motion, Plaintiff Texas Patriots Tea Party states that the relief it seeks is for the IRS to “finish developing TPTP as it was prepared to do in 2013 with any additional inquiry limited to (1) what the IRS had then identified as new issues raised in, or still to be clarified from, TPTP’s response to the second development letter; and (2) facts regarding TPTP’s activities on or before March 2013.” Prior to the filing of this Motion, TPTP did not inform the United States of the relief sought. Had TPTP done so, the United States would have been amenable to that relief and the parties likely would have been able to resolve the issue extra-judicially. In fact, on November 14, 2016, during a meet-and-confer telephone call regarding the TPTP development questions, counsel for the United States inquired whether TPTP’s concerns may be addressed by limiting the time frame of the questions to lessen the burden on TPTP. TPTP’s counsel dismissed the suggestion and, prior to the filing of the Motion, did not indicate any renewed interest in pursuing that avenue of resolution. However, the United States is still amenable to resolving this issue by limiting the requested information to the time period prior to March 2013. The United States is also amenable to resolving this matter by agreeing to allow TPTP to submit the additional information it believes would be relevant to establish whether it is entitled to tax exempt status. While the IRS issued the development letter in the ordinary course, TPTP can decide whether to respond fully, incompletely, or with different information. However, the United States requests that any Court order along those lines clarify that it is not in the ordinary course but is an accommodation for TPTP and require that any additional information be submitted within 30 days.

In the event TPTP is not amenable to the accommodations the United States is willing to make to resolve this Motion, the IRS is justified in pursuing answers to the questions it has posed to TPTP. TPTP argues that, by seeking additional information, the IRS is not processing its application in the “ordinary course,” but this argument rests on two faulty assumptions: (1) that TPTP’s application was complete and “on the path to approval” in August 2013 and (2) that the IRS does not ordinarily ask applicants to provide information about their activities covering a time frame of more than six to nine months. Neither of these assumptions is correct. Prior to the stay requested by TPTP, the IRS was processing its application in the ordinary course, and contrary to TPTP’s assertions, TPTP now seeks extraordinary treatment.

TPTP also seeks to poison the well by misrepresenting the facts of its case and falsely implying, without any basis, that Department of Justice (DOJ) counsel and IRS Chief Counsel (IRS Counsel) attorneys improperly influenced the processing of TPTP’s application. Plaintiff’s allegations break down under the weight of false assumptions and misleading recitations. Specifically, whether by design or mistake, TPTP makes two fundamentally incorrect factual assertions in telling its story. First, TPTP erroneously claims that it was “on the path to approval” in August 2013. This claim is based on a mischaracterization of the roles of Tax Law Specialist Emily Mangrum and IRS Counsel Preston Quesenberry in processing TPTP’s application and ignores the then-current process used to review applications. Second, and more disturbingly, TPTP makes false assumptions regarding material withheld under the attorney-client and work product privileges, incorrectly filling in the gaps to infer that the IRS Office of Chief Counsel and the Department of Justice inappropriately attempted to influence the processing of TPTP’s application. These inferences are demonstrably false. As a result of the severity of these accusations, the United States is compelled to release the unredacted documents, as the actual redacted text is both banal and consistent with the government’s position throughout this litigation. Reviewing these materials in their entirety establishes that TPTP’s interpretation of the timeline is without any basis in fact. Furthermore, TPTP’s argument that it was “on the path to approval” does not withstand scrutiny in light of the merits of TPTP’s application under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(4). Simply put, TPTP has not met its burden of showing that its campaign intervention activity falls within permissible limits, and that it qualifies for tax exempt status under § 501(c)(4). As a result, the IRS is within its rights to seek additional information to determine whether TPTP qualifies for tax exempt status. Finally, both the scope of the development questions and the nature of the timeframe are adapted from the template questions that the IRS uses for all organizations that raise issues similar to those raised by TPTP’s application. The IRS is processing TPTP’s application in the ordinary course and in compliance with this Court’s Order on TPTP’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. No further “clarification” is needed. ...

TPTP bases its arguments on false assumptions bolstered by improper and demonstrably false insinuations of inappropriate involvement by DOJ and IRS counsel attorneys. However, the facts show that the IRS’s development questions are in the ordinary course. Accordingly, the IRS is in the process of complying with this Court’s Order to process TPTP’s application in the ordinary course. The United States is amenable to resolving this issue by limiting the time period of the information requested. The United States is also amenable to resolving this matter by agreeing to allow TPTP to submit the additional information it believes would be relevant to establish whether it is entitled to tax exempt status. While the IRS issued the development letter in the ordinary course, TPTP can decide whether to respond fully, incompletely, or with different information. However, the United States requests that any Court order along those lines clarify that this is an accommodation for TPTP, not the ordinary course, and require that TPTP submit any additional information within 30 days.

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December 21, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1321: Maureen Dowd, Donald Trump, And The IRS Scandal

IRS Logo 2New York Times:  Election Therapy From My Basket of Deplorables, by Maureen Dowd:

My little basket of deplorables, as I call my conservative family, gloated with Trump toasts galore, and [my brother] Kevin presented me with his annual holiday column with an extra flourish. ... [H]ere is what Kevin, an affluent, educated suburbanite, has to say in his column, titled an “Election Therapy Guide for Liberals”:

Donald Trump pulled off one of the greatest political feats in modern history by defeating Hillary Clinton and the vaunted Clinton machine.

The election was a complete repudiation of Barack Obama: his fantasy world of political correctness, the politicization of the Justice Department and the I.R.S., an out-of-control E.P.A., his neutering of the military, his nonsupport of the police and his fixation on things like transgender bathrooms. Since he became president, his party has lost 63 House seats, 10 Senate seats and 14 governorships. ...

As Eddie Murphy so eloquently stated in the movie “48 Hrs.”: “There’s a new sheriff in town.” And he is going to be here for 1,461 days. Merry Christmas.

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December 20, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (10)

Monday, December 19, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1320:  How The GOP Establishment Teamed With Nancy Pelosi To Table Impeachment Vote On IRS Commissioner

IRS Logo 2Conservative Review, How the GOP Establishment Teamed With Nancy Pelosi to Save the Corrupt IRS Chief:

The last nail in the coffin went in handily.

After Rep. Jim Jordan R-Ohio, Freedom Caucus’ outgoing chairman, invoked a privileged resolution on Tuesday to force an impeachment vote on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the House voted 342-72 to refer the measure back to the Judiciary Committee, where it will gather dust for the indefinite future.

It was the last maneuver available to the House Freedom Caucus’s hopes of impeaching Koskinen, who they say has lied to Congress about the targeting of conservative groups.

Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Tim Huelskamp posted an instructive timeline of events on Facebook, outlining just how GOP leaders worked with Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Ca.  to kill the impeachment effort:

After learning of conservatives [sic] plans to force the House to take a recorded vote on the impeachment resolution, GOP leaders responded by making a deal with Nancy Pelosi to use a procedural gimmick to effectively kill the effort. The little-used ‘motion to refer’ sent the impeachment resolution back to committee where it is unlikely to ever see the light of day again.” Instead of waiting for a vote on the privileged resolution on Thursday —when lawmakers intended to vote on it — Pelosi led the House Democrats in a move to table the motion. The move failed 180 to 235.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte R-Va. then offered a motion to refer the resolution back to the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment hearings. Privileged resolutions must be voted on within two days of being offered, but Pelosi’s move to table the motion on Tuesday ensured an even swifter end to the impeachment measure. ...

This week’s defeat of the effort to impeach John Koskinen is the end of the line for the many Freedom Caucus members who’ve slaved away trying to do right by their constituents, for justice.

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December 19, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1319:  How Will The Koskinen Saga End?

IRS Logo 2Going Concern, Accounting News Roundup:

One of the more colossal wastes of time this past year has been the effort by some House Republicans to impeach IRS commissioner John Koskinen. They were dealt a blow earlier this week when the full House voted overwhelmingly to send the matter to the Judiciary Committee.

From here it could a couple of ways: Koskinen ends up serving the rest of his term which ends in 2017 or he could be forced out after ugh Donald Trump becomes president. In a fun twist, however, Trump and Koskinen have a bit of a history. Politico's Morning Tax pointed to a New York Times article from 1975 where the two were on opposite sides of a couple real estate deals. This leaves the door open to...maybe Trump reappointing Koskinen? It's probably a longshot, but it would almost make all this worth it.

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December 18, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1318:  More On Koskinen And Trump

IRS Logo 2Politico Morning Tax, Koskinen Gets Expansive:

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen sat down with Tax Analysts recently, and dropped some pretty interesting tidbits — his meeting with the Trump transition team, for instance, didn’t touch on whether he’d finish his term. (He added that he’d step aside if Trump asked him to, but that he thinks it’s best for the agency if he serves until his term expires in November.)

Koskinen also said it could be a real pain for the agency if Congress does repeal Obamacare, given all the resources the IRS allocated to implement the health care law. And he said he’s concerned that the sort of treatment he received from congressional Republicans might make talented people in the private sector think twice about hopping over to the government. (Though to be fair, Trump’s Cabinet choices suggest there are still people from the business world willing to make the jump.)

Morning Tax’s favorite part of the interview was Koskinen’s discussion of how he worked with Trump on a Manhattan hotel deal four decades ago. Koskinen, who called Trump “irrepressible,” said the real estate magnate didn’t coast like other children of wealth. “It was clear that Donald was going to make a career for himself,” Koskinen said. “I mean, he didn't have a hobby. He worked all day and all night.” (Bonus content: Trump called Koskinen to congratulate him after the IRS chief was nominated in 2013, and has since then sent him a note to say that he’d been criticized for defending the commissioner in a television interview.)

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December 17, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 16, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1317:  Koskinen Says He Is Willing To Serve Another Term As IRS Commissioner If Trump Wants To Reappoint Him

IRS Logo 2Bloomberg BNA, IRS Chief Would Continue to Lead Agency If Trump Were to Ask:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said he would be willing to remain in the agency’s top job if President-elect Donald Trump were to re-appoint him.

“I’ve never said no. That’s part of my problem,” he told reporters at an event sponsored by George Washington University Law School and the IRS. “It’s an honor to be the commissioner.”

President Barack Obama appointed Koskinen, 77, to the job in 2013. His term ends next November. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus tried to impeach Koskinen during his term, saying he improperly withheld evidence during investigations into the agency’s handling of organizations applying for tax-exempt status. Moderate Republicans and Democrats said the effort was unwarranted.

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December 16, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1316:  IRS Commissioner Koskinen Says Resignation Did Not Come Up In Meeting With Trump Transition Team

IRS Logo 2The Hill, IRS Chief: Resignation Didn't Come Up in Meeting With Trump Team:

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says he met with members of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team last week, but the subject of whether Trump would ask him to resign was not discussed.

"In none of that conversation did anything come up about my tenure," Koskinen said in an interview with Tax Analysts published Wednesday. "It was really focused on the agency, its challenges and what it would take to allow it to improve its operations, its outreach to taxpayers."

Many Republican lawmakers have been critical of Koskinen and have accused him of engaging in misconduct during congressional investigations into IRS handling of Tea Party groups' tax-exempt status. Earlier this month, the House Freedom Caucus tried to force a floor vote on impeaching Koskinen, but the effort failed and the House voted to refer the impeachment resolution to the Judiciary Committee.

Koskinen's term ends in November 2017. He reiterated to Tax Analysts that he plans to finish his term but would step aside if the incoming president requested him to do so. "I have not considered resigning," he said. "I've made it clear, particularly to the employees who care a lot about this, that I am committed to finishing out my term, which, as you know, ends next November. Although as I also made it clear, I serve at the pleasure of the president. And the president-elect will make whatever decisions he thinks are best going forward."

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December 15, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1315:  Bureaucratic Bumbling Or Targeting Of Conservatives?

IRS Logo 2Forbes: IRS Says Fixing Up Your Own House Is Not Charity, by Peter J. Reilly:

Got a run down old house that needs some spiffing up? Here is an idea. Get it designated an historic landmark. Then you can form a not-for-profit and get grants to do some renovations. Since it is an historic landmark, you'll have to let people see it sometimes. ...

[I]t did not end well for the organization (Let's call it This Really Old House (TROH))) that was the subject of Private Letter Ruling 201648020. ...

[T]he gatekeeper sorting the wheat from the chaff is the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, sometimes referred to as EO. There are also state agencies of greater or less ferocity, usually the Attorney General rooting out phony charities, but mainly we seem to rely on IRS EO to prevent the charitable sector from being overrun by the less than charitable. The reliance was probably never that reasonable, but the developments over the last few years have made things much worse.

At its very heart the interminable IRS scandal, now on Day 1312 by TaxProf count was about exempt status applications.  Applications from Tea Party and similar organizations were held up and applicants were asked intrusive question.  Here is the thing. I am the last agnostic on the IRS scandal.  Was it bureaucratic bumbling or targeting of conservatives? I never found the targeting argument persuasive, but both Joe Kristan and George Will did, which gives me pause.

Regardless of whether it was bumbling or targeting, the end result has not been good for the integrity of the charitable sector. The IRS has streamlined the process and now many, possibly most applications are receiving no scrutiny thanks to the new Form 1023-EZ. You can find commentary to the effect that the corrupt IRS is still persecuting the Tea Party. I really think the only way out of the mess is to turn the vetting of exempt status over to a different agency. In the states supervision of not for profits generally falls under the Attorney General, not the revenue department. Maybe they are on to something.

The targeting believers will never accept that the IRS has been punished enough or that enough will be done to protect against future targeting, so taking the job away from the IRS might be the only way out of a downward spiral.

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December 14, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1314: How The Trump Administration Can Stop IRS Abuse of Political Groups

IRS Logo 2Jewish Press:  How the Trump Administration Can Stop IRS Abuse of Political Groups, by Jerome M. Marcus:

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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December 13, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 12, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1313: The Koskinen-Trump Connection

IRS Logo 2Politico Morning Tax, Now That's Going Way Back:

Trump and Koskinen might decide that it’s best for the IRS chief to move along — but apparently they’ll do so after more than four decades worth of history. A New York Times article from May 1975 discusses the efforts of the president-elect, then a 28-year-old developer, to buy a hotel. The assets management company representing the bankrupt company that owned the hotel was represented by a 35-year-old executive — yup, John Koskinen.

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December 12, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1312: Impeachment Averted, But Will Koskinen Resign Or Be Fired By President Trump?

IRS Logo 2Politico Morning Tax, Impeachment Averted:

There’s not a ton of bipartisanship in the House these days, but lawmakers apparently made an exception for quashing a Freedom Caucus effort to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

In the end, only 72 House Republicans voted to essentially bring the impeachment resolution to the floor. ... But while almost 350 House members decided to refer the resolution to a Judiciary Committee that hasn’t been gung ho on impeachment so far, that shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as an endorsement of Koskinen — who avoids becoming the first executive branch official since Reconstruction to be impeached. Top Republicans like House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady made it clear they were no fans of Koskinen’s work, but that using time for impeachment proceedings might be unnecessary because they don’t expect the IRS chief to stay on under President-elect Donald Trump. (Koskinen's term ends next November, no matter what.)

 

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December 11, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1311:  The IRS 'Scandal' Was Part Of GOP's Strategy To Bog Down Obama Administration

IRS Logo 2Salon, Tom Cotton and Trey Gowdy Vow Vigilance Over the Trump Administration — No, Seriously, Stop Laughing:

Considering how the Republican Party has fallen in line behind Donald Trump over the last few months, does anyone seriously think that this will ever amount to anything? The Chicago Tribune recently reported on Thursday:

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. . . . agreed that House and Senate committees must keep close tabs on Donald Trump’s new government starting next year — not because they want to stick it to a man that neither originally endorsed for president, but because doing so would help rebalance power between the three branches of government.

Sure thing. And I’ve got a bridge over the Potomac to sell you. ...

[A]fter the partisanship of the last eight years, why would anyone give Gowdy or Cotton the benefit of the doubt? Gowdy can complain all he wants about the deeply unfair perception, as he put it in remarks on Tuesday to a room full of Cotton’s fundraisers, that any subpoenas sent to Hillary Clinton or contempt-of-Congress votes held on former IRS bureaucrat Lois Lerner were “politicized.” But that perception existed because the investigations that Congress conducted into the Benghazi tragedy and the IRS “scandal” were in fact part of the GOP strategy to bog down the Obama administration and harm Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

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December 10, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, December 9, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1310:  Rep. Jim Jordan Is 'Frustrated' By House Passing On IRS Chief Koskinen's Impeachment

IRS Logo 2Newsmax, Rep. Jim Jordan 'Frustrated' by House Passing on IRS Chief Koskinen's Impeachment:

Rep. Jim Jordan said Thursday he is frustrated that the House passed on his bid to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, but pointed out the American public is also frustrated by Washington's actions.

'[They] voted a month ago, drain the swamp, clean the place up and hold people accountable, people like John Koskinen," the Ohio Republican told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" program.

The IRS, said Jordan, targeted people for their political beliefs with its increased targeting of conservative-based groups, and "you can't have that happen in a great country like ours. You cannot say, 'because you're a conservative we'll come after you.'"

On Tuesday, House members voted by a 342-72 margin to send Jordan's request to the House Judiciary Committee, which has not indicated it wants to prosecute the case. ...

Jordan and fellow Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson both voted against referring the matter to committee. Jordan and his fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus say Koskinen should lose his job for allowing evidence concerning former IRS official Lois Lerner to be destroyed, and for lying to Congress.

"We were told on Election Day to come here and clean this place up," Jordan said Thursday. "We had a chance to do it other day, but unfortunately we didn't get the votes."

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December 9, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1309:  How Trump Got Yanked Into GOP's IRS Impeachment Fight

IRS Logo 2Politico, How Trump Got Yanked Into GOP's IRS Impeachment Fight:

John Koskinen's ouster was voted down after multiple conversations among Reince Priebus, the Freedom Caucus and House leaders.

House Freedom Caucus members were gearing up for a floor fight Tuesday to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen when one of the group’s leaders, Rep. Jim Jordan, received an unexpected phone call from Reince Priebus.

Priebus, the new chief of staff for President-elect Donald Trump, asked Jordan (R-Ohio) to hold off on the effort to remove Koskinen, sources close to the matter said. The impeachment drive had been a long-running source of tension between Republican leaders who feared it was an abuse use of congressional oversight, and conservatives who believed Koskinen lied to them and deserved to be punished.

In the frenzied hours as the impeachment showdown neared, multiple conversations ensued between Priebus and Freedom Caucus leaders. There are conflicting accounts of where the outgoing Republican Party chairman came down.

GOP leaders say Priebus remained opposed to Koskinen's impeachment. Freedom Caucus sources counter that Priebus called them back several times to retract any such opposition and say Trump's inner circle would remain neutral. ...

Freedom Caucus sources say the back-and-forth over Koskinen shows that party leaders will use Trump and his inner circle as a lever against them. They fear that after years of bucking Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and their top lieutenants, GOP leaders will point to a Trump-run White House to justify their positions and try to steamroll the group as it tries to push the party’s agenda to the right. ...

According to multiple sources, Ryan staffers contacted Priebus and urged him to weigh in on the Koskinen dispute. Ryan and other top House Republicans said they were worried that impeaching Koskinen would trigger a Senate trial for the IRS commissioner in early 2017 that could eat up weeks of Senate floor time, potentially impeding Trump's early agenda. Plus, most of the House Republican Conference had no interest in voting on this sensitive matter, which many felt pitted them between their base and their conscience. ...

A source familiar with their conversations said Priebus called back later Tuesday to clarify that Trump's team was not against impeachment and would remain neutral. “It’s ludicrous to suggest a president who ran on draining the swamp would oppose the impeachment of an IRS commissioner who targeted some of the very same people who voted for him,” said a Freedom Caucus member.

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December 8, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1308:  House Votes To Send Koskinen Impeachment Back To Judiciary Committee

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal: House Turns Aside Vote on IRS Chief Impeachment: Vote Demonstrates Lack of Appetite Among Republicans For Pursuing Case Against John Koskinen, by Richard Rubin:

The House of Representatives turned aside an attempt by conservative hard-liners to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his handling of congressional investigations into the tax agency.

Instead, in a 342-72 vote, the House sent the issue back to the Judiciary Committee, which hasn’t held a formal impeachment hearing or voted on the matter.

The vote demonstrated the lack of appetite among rank-and-file House Republicans for pursuing Mr. Koskinen’s impeachment, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) said the move would ensure Mr. Koskinen gets due process.

A senior Republican aide said officials from the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump told members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative members who helped push the vote, that they wanted to avoid a showdown over to IRS commissioner because of the potential impact on the legislative process.

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December 7, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1307: Group Seeks Summary Judgment On Claim That Rev. Rul. 2004-6 Is So Vague That It Allows The IRS To Target Conservative Groups

IRS Logo 2Plaintiff's Reply Brief in Support of its Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, Freedom Path v. Lerner, No 3:14‐CV‐1537‐D (D.C. N.D. TX) (citations omitted):

The Government argues that the jeopardy for any group facing the “facts and circumstances” test is neither (1) being subjected to an unconstitutionally vague process nor (2) a chilling of its constitutionally‐protected speech. But the Government is incorrect in both respects, and even a cursory analysis of the “facts and circumstances” test reveals a regulatory test that is unconstitutional under the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Over the years, the Internal Revenue Service has made clear that social‐welfare organizations, which are organized under § 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, may make political communications so long as those communications are not “the primary purpose” of the organization. Those political communications are speech, and the ability to engage in it is an enormous benefit to social welfare organizations. Yet it is the IRS, which employs an unconstitutional test to analyze these organizations’ activities, that plays gatekeeper for such speech. And because the “facts and circumstances” test of Revenue Ruling 2004‐6 is so vague and overly broad, it allows the IRS—whether purposeful or not— to provide the benefit of speech for groups whose political persuasions the IRS prefers and to deny it to groups whose political persuasions the IRS dislikes. ...

Finally, the Government notes that Freedom Path, or any other social‐welfare organization or tax‐exempt applicant, may appeal any adverse determination the IRS may make in the future. But an appeal that adjudicates results created by an unconstitutional process—especially without the opportunity to first challenge the process itself—is, in fact, no remedy at all.

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December 6, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 5, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1306:  Government Rejects Claim That Rev. Rul. 2004-6 Allows The IRS To Target Conservative Groups

IRS Logo 2Law360, IRS Defends Test Used To Determine Nonprofit Status:

Federal attorneys defending the Internal Revenue Service against accusations it used an unconstitutional method to deny tax-exempt nonprofit status to a conservative group told a Texas federal judge Wednesday that the test in question “is neither unconstitutionally vague nor overly broad.” [Government's Motion; Government's Brief]

In arguments against plaintiff Freedom Path Inc.’s bid for partial summary judgment, the federal government disputed the group’s assertion that the test used by the IRS to determine whether a group that otherwise is exempt from federal income tax has spent money on a function that Congress has made subject to tax [Revenue Ruling 2004-6] is unconstitutionally vague, subjectively applied and burdensome on free speech. ...

Revenue Ruling 2004-6 is not constitutionally invalid on its face, as it is sufficiently clear in its terms to give fair notice of its requirements, and its objective factors do not make it readily susceptible to arbitrary or discriminatory application, the U.S. argued in its brief. Nor does the test infringe First Amendment rights, the government said. “Revenue Ruling 2004-6 prohibits no speech; it merely aids in determining whether a tax is owed for activity that Congress has chosen not to subsidize in section 501(c),” federal attorneys said. “And the range of opportunities for both administrative and judicial review provides further insurance against any remote possibility of abuse in the Revenue Ruling’s application.” ...

The suit stems from allegations that the IRS improperly used “Be on the Look Out” lists to target conservative “patriot” and “tea party” groups’ requests for tax-exempt status for increased scrutiny. Although the IRS has ended its use of the lists, Freedom Path claims the “facts and circumstances” test in Ruling 2004-6, which involves an examination of an organization’s activities to determine whether it is engaged exclusively in social welfare rather than for-profit or partisan-political activity, continues to threaten the group’s ability to operate as a nonprofit advocacy group. The group has argued that the “facts and circumstances” test is unconstitutional, and that the IRS’ methodology invites “viewpoint discrimination.”

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December 5, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1305:  Group Seeks Summary Judgment On Claim That Rev. Rul. 2004-6 Is So Vague That It Allows The IRS To Target Conservative Groups

IRS Logo 2Courthouse News Service,  GOP-Tied Group Presses Attack on the IRS:

A Republican-affiliated group that says the Internal Revenue Service illegally targets conservative groups seeks partial summary judgment on its claim that the IRS uses an unconstitutional test to determine tax-exempt nonprofit status.

Dallas-based Freedom Path sued the IRS and Lois G. Lerner, the former director of the agency's Exempt Organizations Division, in April 2014 in Federal Court. It claimed that as early as February 2010, the agency targeted tax-exempt applications from groups with names including the words "Tea Party" and "Patriots," asking for unnecessary information such as donor names.

Last Wednesday, Freedom Path asked the court to grant partial summary judgment because the IRS' "facts and circumstances" test is too vague and violates the Fifth Amendment. "Pursuant to Revenue Ruling 2004-6, the determination of whether a communication constitutes issue advocacy versus an exempt-function activity (i.e., political campaign intervention) is based upon a highly subjective evaluation of all the facts and circumstance on each case, instead of by reference to any clearly defined bright-line rules," the 29-page memorandum in support of the motion states. Freedom Path says it has "no way of knowing" what speech is protected and what speech would harm its tax-exempt nonprofit status.

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December 4, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1304: 'The IRS Has Never Stopped Targeting Conservatives'

IRS Logo 2The Federalist, Despite Investigations, Obama’s IRS Has Never Stopped Targeting Conservatives:

The next Tea Party scandal is not only coming, it may already be happening. When it does, the charade will begin anew, and no one will pay a price.

“It’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true, it’s old news.” Standard Washington crisis management says to deflect and deny political scandals until they can be ignored—preferably without the powerful punished. The guilty have deftly used this strategy in the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting scandal. Fleeting hours of feigned indignation quickly morphed into assigning blame to laws governing nonprofits and, that all-purpose scapegoat, the Supreme Court’s opinion in Citizens United.

Those who cultivated the scandal by pressuring ideological allies inside the IRS shrugged and moved on. Those within the agency lawyered up, pled the Fifth, and moved on. Those defending the IRS in court engaged in unconscionable dilatory tactics that continue today. New faces replaced old and nothing changed. That the government’s most feared agency had blatantly discriminated against the president’s ideological foes was declared history.

But “the past,” as William Faulkner declared, “is never dead. It’s not even past.” The IRS scandal never ended, because the behavior never stopped. More importantly, the structural forces that nurtured it—piqued politicians demanding agencies “do something” in accord with political objectives, and like-minded, eager-to-please career employees manning those agencies—means a repeat is not just predictable, it’s inevitable. In fact, it may already be occurring.

The IRS cover-up began in earnest with John Koskinen. He marred his tenure as IRS head with gross incompetence and perhaps willful obstruction. Yet he has achieved his mission. His middle finger to congressional investigations ensured destroyed evidence, denied justice, and perpetrators walking scot-free.

The administration sold Koskinen as a “turnaround artist” who specializes in stressed institutions. The all-business technocrat, so it went, would cooperate with congressional investigators and restore the tattered agency’s reputation. During his confirmation hearing, he assured as much: “[W]e will be transparent about any problems we run into; and the public and certainly this committee will know about those problems as soon as we do.” Six weeks into the job, opportunity tested Koskinen’s pledge. He failed miserably. ..

No IRS official ever suffered for the blatantly unconstitutional and unethical actions. Lerner pled the Fifth and then walked away with a $129,000 bonus and a pension that vests with 34 years of government “service”—she could receive almost $4 million over her lifetime. Koskinen impeachment talk fizzled, neutered by Republican leadership unwilling to stomach the difficult political fight. Even successful litigation will only result in victims getting official nonprofit status or, where a group’s privacy rights were violated, a damage award and perhaps payment of attorney’s fees. ...

Evidence suggests targeting will continue and indeed spread —even assuming the IRS henceforth uses objective criteria to approve tax-exempt applications.

 

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December 3, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, December 2, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1303:  Group Sues IRS For Failure To Produce Communications With Joint Committee on Taxation

IRS Logo 2Press Release, CoA Institute Sues IRS for Improperly Shielding Records:

Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) today filed a lawsuit against the IRS after the agency refused to produce records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) relating to its dealings with Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).

In December 2015, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel issued new guidance claiming that nearly all IRS records relating to the JCT should be treated as “congressional records” and therefore shielded from public disclosure under FOIA. This revised guidance contradicts long-standing precedent for what records government agencies must provide in response to FOIA requests.

CoA Institute Vice President John Vecchione: “The IRS continues to withhold agency records that the American people have a right to see. Agency records, including communications with Congress, are subject to FOIA. But the IRS is now attempting to change the rules and withhold all of its communications with, and other records relating to, the JCT. Our lawsuit challenges what appears to be a ploy by the IRS to avoid transparency.”

For months, CoA Institute has sought IRS communications with JCT and other JCT-related records, including those that reflect internal deliberations concerning the agency’s dealings with the JCT.  By definition, these are agency records, as they would necessarily have been received or created by the IRS and are currently in the possession of the agency.  Such records would have been used by IRS employees and uploaded or stored into IRS recordkeeping systems, including e-mail or correspondence

On November 22, 2016, in response to CoA Institute’s administrative appeal, the IRS re-affirmed its conclusion that the requested records were not subject to FOIA and went a step further to describe CoA Institute’s FOIA requests as “too broad and too nebulous.” The Department of Justice has explained, however, that “[t]he sheer size or burdensomeness of a FOIA request, in and of itself, does not entitle an agency to deny that request on the ground that it does not ‘reasonably describe’ records.” The IRS never indicated that it was unable to locate records responsive to CoA Institute’s FOIA requests, nor did it suggest it required a narrowed scope or clarification as to the records sought.

CoA Institute’s lawsuit seeks to prevent the IRS from improperly shielding agency records from disclosure under FOIA.

The lawsuit can be found here.

Exhibits can be found here.

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December 2, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1302:  The 'Corrupt' IRS Is Still Persecuting The Tea Party

IRS Logo 2WND, 'Corrupt' IRS Still Persecuting Tea Party:

A “corrupt” Internal Revenue Service still is shooting down advocates for conservative causes, especially if they have the words “tea party” in their names, even though courts have told the bureaucrats to stop.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said three non-profits that had applied for tax-exempt status years ago at a time when the agency, under the Obama administration, was selectively targeting and discriminating against conservative groups, recently received letters from the IRS regarding their requests.

Two of the organizations were denied tax-exempt status.

“It is clear that we still have an IRS that is corrupt and incapable of self-correction,” Sekulow said. ... “As we continue our fight at the ACLJ against the lawless, unconstitutional Obama administration’s IRS targeting of grassroots conservatives, we are achieving important victories,” Sekulow said. “But the fight also continues in federal court to ensure justice for all 38 of our clients from 22 states across the country. We must not stop fighting the IRS corruption until there is true justice and assurances that no American will ever be targeted by the IRS for his or her beliefs ever again.

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December 1, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1301:  If Koskinen Is Impeached Or Fired, Trump Could Appoint New IRS Commissioner To Go Easy On His Taxes

IRS Logo 2USA Today, Trump Faces Potential Decision on IRS:

President-elect Donald Trump could face a decision that may affect whether his tax returns will continue to be audited throughout his four-year term of office.

IRS regulations call for annual audits of tax returns filed by U.S. presidents and vice presidents. But those rules, in place roughly 40 years, theoretically could be changed by the tax agency — whose current leader is under fire from Capitol Hill. ...

Trump has not publicly discussed future leadership for the IRS, which is part of the Department of the Treasury. ... Current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, serving a five-year term that's set to end in November 2017, has been under pressure from congressional Republicans angered by what they contend was the tax agency's politically motivated delays of applications for non-profit status submitted by conservative Tea Party organizations. They say Koskinen misled Congress and obstructed committees that investigated the issue, allegations he has denied. ...

House Republicans started the process of initiating impeachment proceedings against Koskinen with a Judiciary Committee hearing in September. But no votes were held during the session. If he leaves through impeachment or resignation after Trump takes office, Trump would nominate a successor, subject to Senate confirmation.

"I serve at the pleasure of the President and a new President can always ask me to step aside sooner," Koskinen said in part of a statement prepared for a House hearing in July.

IRS commissioners haven't always stepped down for a new White House administration. Shirley Peterson, appointed in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, officially left as of January 1993, as Bill Clinton took office. But Charles Rossotti, appointed by Clinton in 1997, stayed on for the opening two years of President George W. Bush's first term following enactment of the law that established five-year terms for IRS commissioners.

In a move to guard against any interference with the IRS, a 1998 federal law makes it illegal for executive branch officials to ask the tax agency to initiate or terminate an audit or investigations, Leas said. Convicted violators are subject to a maximum $5,000 fine and five-year prison term.

Several tax law experts recently told Politico the statute wouldn't necessarily stop the appointment of a nominee who might seek easier or tougher treatment of certain audits.

However, Robert McKenzie, a tax expert at the Arnstein & Lehr law firm's Chicago office, theorized that "a conscientious IRS employee would come forward and report it if someone tried to influence him or her on an audit."

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November 30, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Days 1201-1300

November 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1300:  The IRS Scandal And The DOJ's Ban On U.S. Citizens Only Hiring Practices

IRS Logo 2Patriot Post, DOJ Levies Fines for Respecting Rule of Law:

While Lois Lerner and her acolytes at the Internal Revenue Service got away with unlawfully blocking the tax-free applications of conservative groups — which the agency is still doing, by the way — Obama’s Justice Department is busy punishing those who actually take Rule of Law seriously.

The latest example comes from Colorado, where the Denver Sheriff Department was handed 
"a $10,000 fine after it required applications for deputy sheriff jobs to be U.S. citizens when hiring from the beginning of 2015 through March 2016," the Washington Examiner says. ...

Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky outlines the reasons the statue likely isn’t applicable in this case. Also, don’t miss the irony here. The IRS, to name just one example, spent years circumventing the law in order to subjugate Tea Party groups. But when it comes to the DOJ, its behavior is hardly different; the agency is selectively enforcing rules based entirely on whether it benefits the Left. Spakovsky writes, “Given the importance of the job done by law enforcement officers throughout all levels of government to protect the public from those who would harm them … requiring citizenship seems like a basic, commonsense qualification.”

“The federal government certainly thinks so,” he adds, “because it does not apply this statute to itself. If you want to be a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which often works closely with local law enforcement, including sheriff’s departments like Denver’s, the FBI website specifically says that you ‘must be a United States citizen.’ The same is true of the U.S. Secret Service, which routinely discriminates against noncitizens in a manner that no doubt horrifies the DOJ’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.” You know what else requires U.S. citizenship? Yep — the DOJ.

Federal agencies are hardly immune to corruption. They never have been. But when the Justice Department bends the rules — for example, by refusing to prosecute IRS bureaucrats and enforcing rules from which it exempts itself only so far as the outcome comports with an agenda — the administration can hardly be considered “the most transparent in history.” It’s a slow track to tyranny.

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November 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, November 28, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1299:  Ways & Means Chair Brady On How The House Has Reined In The IRS

IRS Logo 2Houston Chronicle op-ed: Reining In the IRS, by Kevin Brady (Chair, House Ways & Means Committee):

Over the last year, the Ways and Means Committee has led the "IRS Accountability Agenda" where House Republicans have approved a series of aggressive, Constitution-restoring legislation to reform the IRS and hold it accountable to the American taxpayer.

Our actions include:

Passing into law the first ban against the IRS targeting taxpayers or organizations based on their political beliefs. In June 2016, the House passed the Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act, which protects the identities of those who donate to tax-exempt organizations. This was in response to more IRS targeting of Americans.

Passing into law the Stolen Identity Refund Fraud Prevention Act which directs the IRS to take aggressive action to combat the growing problem of identity theft of confidential taxpayer information.

In April the U.S. House passed the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act, which prohibits the IRS from rehiring employees for misconduct, and the No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act, which suspends the hiring of new IRS employees unless the Treasury Secretary certifies that no IRS employees have serious delinquencies with respect to their own tax obligations.

The same month the U.S. House passed legislation that prohibits the IRS from paying bonuses to employees until the Secretary of the Treasury implements a comprehensive customer service strategy that puts hardworking taxpayers first. And the House approved a bill that repeals the IRS's authority to spend the user fees it collects – restoring to Congress the full authority over how the IRS spends those resources. ... 

One of the most offensive actions by the IRS is its continued unlawful seizures of money and assets of innocent Americans, called civil asset forfeiture. After two years of aggressive oversight by the Ways and Means Committee in which IRS Commissioner John Koskinen apologized for the agency's actions, the U.S. House approved the Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act, which puts in place important measures to prevent the IRS from wrongfully seizing the assets of law-abiding taxpayers. Since then, under bipartisan pressure the IRS has agreed to review its seizures of assets against hundreds of American taxpayers, and has begun to return the money stolen from these innocent Americans, many of them small business people and farmers merely depositing their daily and weekly receipts. Finally, some justice for those who have been harmed. And perhaps fewer Americans hurt in the future by unlawful seizures.

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November 28, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1298: The IRS Scandal And A Trump-Ryan Constitutional Revival

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed: A Trump-Ryan Constitutional Revival: Wariness of Trump Might Inspire Republicans in Congress to Give Up Lazy Delegation and Relearn the Art of Legislating, by Christopher DeMuth (Hudson Institute):

A central purpose of the American scheme of checks and balances is to draw out the distinctive strengths of the two political branches, executive and the legislature, while containing their distinctive weaknesses.

The scheme has not been working well of late. The consequences are unbridled executive growth into every cranny of commerce and society, and a bystander Congress. We have lapsed into autopilot government, rife with corruption and seemingly immune to incremental electoral correction.

These pathologies were a significant cause of the Trumpian political earthquake. And one of the many astonishing results of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican sweep on Election Day is that they have set the stage for a constitutional revival. ... [T]he new president and Congress are poised to revive constitutional practices in their own branches.

One of these practices is results-oriented policy making—so-called transactional politics—an approximation of what the Founders meant by “deliberation.” Another, “checks and balances,” is vigorous policy competition between the executive branch and Congress. Both practices have fallen into disuse in what had seemed, until now, to be a continuing downward spiral of dysfunctional government. ...

Congress is bound to recover and assert many of its long-neglected legislative prerogatives. In recent decades, our scheme of separated powers has been supplanted by party solidarity between presidents and their congressional co-partisans. (Separation of Parties, Not Powers is the title of an influential 2006 study of this development by Daryl J. Levinson and Richard H. Pildes.)

Members of Congress have increasingly acted out of loyalty to party rather than to Congress as an independent constitutional branch. They support or obstruct administration initiatives along partisan lines, and when in support they receive fundraising and bureaucratic favors from the president in return. During periods of party-unified government, congressional majorities delegate broad lawmaking powers to the executive, as in the Affordable Care and Dodd-Frank acts, that are almost impossible to recover when divided government returns. Congressional minorities allied with the president, employing the Senate filibuster and other supermajority rules, ensure that Congress turns a blind eye to executive abuses, as in the recent IRS and Veterans hospital scandals. ...

If [congressional Republicans] want to participate in charting new courses for health-care, tax and immigration policy and financial regulation, they are going to have to give up lazy policy delegation to the executive and relearn the arts of legislating and collective choice. And if President Trump should try to settle these and similarly momentous matters through Obama-style executive decrees, they are going to have to cry foul and make it stick.

The hard intraparty contention of the 2016 campaign has prepared the congressional Republicans for this. President-elect Trump’s obvious relish for transactional politics, and the largeness of his ambitions, suggests that he is prepared as well. The likely evanescence of Barack Obama’s Congress-free domestic and foreign initiatives—the already voided immigration policies, the Clean Power Plan, the Iran deal, national rules for bathroom etiquette—should inspire everyone to stay at the table. ...

These would be healthy developments for our constitutional order. Presidents have the strengths of action, decisiveness, high aspiration and a national political mandate—along with the weaknesses of overreaching, insularity and concentration of power. They oversee a bureaucratic empire too vast for any one man to keep track of, and so powerful that abuse and corruption are commonplace.

Congresses have the strengths of full-spectrum political representation, 535 state and local mandates, and responsiveness to shifting popular concerns and a soft spot for human-rights minorities at home and abroad—along with the weaknesses of parochialism, irresolution, decision-by-committee and herd mentality.

We need more of the strengths and less of the weaknesses. But transactional politics and interbranch rivalry are no guarantee of happy outcomes, which depend ultimately on the constitution of the participants. The record of tough-guy political outsiders is less than great. Businessman Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, and muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, came to office promising to upend the status quo. But when they discovered how entrenched and hard-bitten the status quo really was, they promptly folded, contented themselves with mere celebrity, and accomplished nothing.

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November 27, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 25, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1296: Will Koskinen Resign As IRS Commissioner At Trump's Request?

IRS Logo 2Politico Morning Tax, It’s On. Still:

If you thought Donald Trump’s win last week might soften Rep. Jim Jordan’s desire to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen — well, you were wrong.

As our Katy O’Donnell reports, Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, used the occasion of the IRS denying the Albuquerque Tea Party tax-exempt status to put a jolt into his impeachment efforts. Jordan called that decision just the latest sign that “Koskinen continues in his dereliction of duty. Congress must move forward on impeaching him.”

As Katy also notes, Koskinen isn’t likely to sound daunted by the threat, having noted previously that the votes just don’t seem to be there in the House for impeachment. He’s also said that a federal judge’s recent statement that the IRS might still be improperly singling out tea party groups — which Jordan cited on Monday — was mistaken.

What does it all mean? It’s pretty clear that House GOP leaders really don’t feel the need to tackle impeachment. But Koskinen, who has about a year left on his term, has also suggested that he’d leave if the next president doesn’t want him to lead the agency — which certainly seems like a possibility, at least.

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November 25, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1295: If Koskinen Is Impeached Or Fired, Trump Could Appoint New IRS Commissioner To Go Easy On His Taxes

IRS Logo 2Politico, Trump Gets to Pick His Own Auditor: Lawyers Say There's Nothing to Stop Him From Appointing an IRS Chief Who Will Go Easy on Him:

President-elect Donald Trump will soon be able to appoint a new director of the agency auditing his taxes, a potential political minefield after his writeoffs and his refusal to release his returns were repeatedly questioned in the campaign.

The president is barred from directing how the IRS treats specific taxpayers, but lawyers say there’s nothing to stop Trump from appointing an IRS chief who will go easy on him while scrutinizing his political enemies.

“There is precious little statutorily that prohibits that,” said Caplin & Drysdale tax lawyer Chris Rizek, who served in the Treasury Department’s Office of Legislative Counsel under former president Clinton.

Trump could have the opportunity to put his own IRS chief into place quickly, even though the IRS commissioner serves a fixed five-year term to shield the agency from presidential politics. Current Commissioner John Koskinen, whose term ends next November, is facing potential impeachment in the House over his handling of investigations, and he could come under pressure to resign before Trump takes office. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan reiterated his call for impeachment this month, and lobbyists expect Trump to give Koskinen the boot to throw conservatives a bone. ...

The IRS also reviews the president’s and vice president’s returns each year, but those audits aren’t required by law, and Trump could stop them. “They don’t need Congress’ approval to change that,” [Valparaiso Law Professor David] Herzig said. “It might raise red flags politically. But you could just change it, or you could just not enforce that part about presidential audits.” ...

Trump is taking office at a time when the IRS has already been weathering accusations that its audits are politically motivated.

The IRS admitted to using “Be On the Lookout” lists to target political groups seeking tax-exempt status in May 2013, after an inspector general audit found the agency was using “inappropriate criteria” to flag “Tea Party and other organizations…based upon their names or policy positions.” No evidence was ever uncovered the White House had anything to do with scandal, but some conservatives argue President Obama in effect sent a dog whistle audit plea by publicly criticizing political social welfare groups, prodding former IRS official Lois Lerner to take it upon herself to act.

Koskinen himself says that the tea party controversy, which he was brought in to clean up, should illustrate the importance of a nonpolitical, independent IRS.

“It’s reemphasized the importance of making sure that there isn’t a question about the IRS being political,” Koskinen maintained.

For the most part, the IRS has gotten pretty good at shrugging off political pressures, tax lawyers said.

“It is not at all uncommon for people to clamor for IRS or DOJ activity or criminal investigation, and the IRS kind of takes the position that they ignore that political pressure. I have not heard of any instance since 1973 of anyone at the White House calling anyone at the IRS to ask for an audit or put pressure on a taxpayer,” [Chris Rizek, who served in the Treasury Department’s Office of Legislative Counsel under former president Clinton] said. “Because if that got out it would be a pretty outrageous news story.”

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November 24, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1294: House Republicans Will Try To Oust IRS Commissioner Koskinen This Month

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, Conservatives Will Try to Oust IRS Chief This Month:

Rep. Tim Huelskamp will call for a post-election vote to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen when Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess, he told the Washington Examiner.

Huelskamp, R-Kan., said he has no plans to drop his effort to oust Koskinen, whose term does not expire until November 2017. "We need to clean house, especially at the IRS," Huelskamp said.

Huelskamp said Koskinen could pre-empt a vote by announcing he will retire when Republican President-elect Trump takes office in January. "But barring that, I anticipate that two weeks from now we will introduce that resolution," Huelskamp said.

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November 23, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1293: WSJ— Has The Obama Administration Been 'Long On Dignity And Short On Scandal'?

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal: A Crisis of Authority—II, by James Taranto:

[I]n a lengthy series of interviews, both pre- and postelection, with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, Obama has been quite fretful—torn, as at that press conference, between his duty as a lame-duck president to respect the office and the man who will soon hold it, and his anguish at what amounts to a repudiation of authority. ...

Remnick himself described the Obama presidency as “two terms long on dignity and short on scandal.” The IRS? The State Department scandal that arguably sank Mrs. Clinton’s campaign? Again, the memory hole.

In Lima on Sunday the president himself declared: “I am extremely proud of the fact that over eight years we have not had the kinds of scandals that have plagued other administrations.” That’s either delusional or very carefully worded: To our knowledge no other administration has used the IRS to punish ordinary citizens for dissent, nor faced FBI findings that the secretary of state treated classified information in an “extremely careless” fashion.

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November 22, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, November 21, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1292: Boston Herald Editorial—IRS Scandal Belies President Obama's Claim That His Has Been A Scandal-Free Administration

IRS ScandalBoston Herald editorial, Scandal 'Free' Obama:

“I am very proud of the fact that we will — knock on wood — leave this administration without significant scandal.” — President Obama at his Nov. 14 news conference.

Ah, the lie oft repeated . . .

Define scandal. Or perhaps “significant scandal.”

Well, let’s start with the IRS scandal — or is there another word for what happens when public officials in one of government’s most sensitive departments make decisions based on ideology. Let’s see, how about when any organization with the words “tea party” in its name applies for tax-exempt status? Lois Lerner, who headed the tax exempt division resigned.

But guess that’s only a “significant scandal” for those groups still waiting to hear back from the IRS. ...

No scandal here, folks. Just move along.

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November 21, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The IRS, Day 1291:  Federal Judge—‘Strong Showing’ That IRS Discriminated Against Tea Party Groups

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1290:  Linchpins Of Liberty Seeks Declaratory Relief That IRS Violated Their First Amendment Rights

IRS Logo 2 Notice Regarding Declaratory Relief to Which plaintiffs Are Entitled, Linchpins of Liberty v. United States, No. 1:13-cv-00777 (D.C. D.C. Nov. 11, 2016):

Based on the applicable law, and the Government’s admissions, there can be no dispute that Plaintiffs are entitled to a declaration that the IRS violated their First Amendment rights by:

(1) engaging in viewpoint-based discrimination when it targeted Plaintiffs’ tax-exempt applications for heightened scrutiny, significantly delayed the processing of those applications, and issued irrelevant and unnecessary demands for information—all because of Plaintiffs’ political-sounding names and/or policy positions (i.e., viewpoints); and

(2) demanding that Plaintiffs disclose such information as donor names, the type of conversations and discussions members and participants had during organizational activities, and the political affiliations of Plaintiffs’ officers and directors, all without any government interest, let alone a substantial or sufficiently important one, as the Government has admitted the accuracy of TIGTA’s finding that such information demands were entirely irrelevant and unnecessary.

United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment as to Remaining CLaims and Supporting Statement of Points and Authorities, Linchpins of Liberty v. United States, No. 1:13-cv-00777 (D.C. D.C. Nov. 11, 2016):

No one disputes that the IRS used certain criteria and engaged in other conduct in processing applications for tax-exempt status that it should not have done, both as found by TIGTA and acknowledged by the IRS itself. Whether what went wrong rises to the level of a constitutional injury is an issue that this Court has yet to decide, and the United States has not conceded that legal point. But something having gone wrong in the processing of applications, whether it constitutes a constitutional injury or not, the point remains that what happened next is exactly what should have happened: an independent oversight body (TIGTA) became involved and conducted an extensive investigation of what happened, it made its recommendations to correct the objectionable conduct, and the IRS implemented all of those recommendations. And all of that took place with the additional and intense scrutiny of Congress exercising its oversight function. Something having gone wrong in the first place, the process to correct that problem worked as it was supposed to, leaving no need for the Court to grant declaratory or injunctive relief.

The fact that the IRS has acted on Plaintiffs’ applications leaves no live or ongoing issues to be resolved as to Plaintiffs’ claims, which centered on the application process. And, as described, the IRS has permanently changed its procedures that gave rise to Plaintiffs’ claims. As a result, Plaintiffs are not entitled to the declaratory and injunctive relief that they seek.

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November 19, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)