TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1178

IRS Logo 2Salt Lake City Tribune, IRS Chief Says Chaffetz’s Drive to Oust Him Will Leave Few Wanting Top Federal Jobs:

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz's relentless drive to impeach him will scare good people away from entering government service and is damaging his agency.

"If this is the signal we are sending to people thinking about coming to take a senior position in government, it's going to make it harder for good people to come in," Koskinen told reporters during a visit Wednesday to the Ogden IRS service center.

He adds that Republicans have slashed the IRS budget to punish him and the agency. With that, the Ogden center has lost 1,300 employees through attrition over the past five years — leaving about 5,000 there — and customer service is suffering.

Chaffetz, a Republican, fired back that if Koskinen wants to stop such perceived damage, "He can solve this himself by doing the right thing for the nation and stepping aside. He is so egotistical that he can't bear to do that." ...

"It goes beyond me. My concern is that no appointed official has been impeached for 140 years. So if we are suddenly, on relatively poorly supported facts, going to start attacking senior officials, people in the private sector" will have second thoughts about public service.

They will think, "It doesn't look like much fun," he said. "You get yelled at a lot in a hearing," and Congress may try "to impeach you." House Republicans even sought, he said, to reduce his salary to zero or take away his pension.

Future presidents may discover that it is "harder to find people who want to be Cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, agency heads," he said. "It's going to be interesting to see who wants to take this seat next." ...

Chaffetz responded in a telephone interview. "He may say it has been fixed, but the GAO [Government Accountability Office, a research arm of Congress] begs to differ."

Chaffetz said Koskinen "has not solved this problem. He has exacerbated it." Also, "I think he provided false testimony to Congress. There should be a consequence."

Koskinen said he plans to serve until his term ends in November 2017. "I have no intention of being hounded out of office." ...

Chaffetz added, "We're not going to have productive interactions with the IRS as long as he's the commissioner. ... I do think it's affecting tens of thousands of workers in a very negative way. That's his choice, not mine."

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July 30, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, July 29, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1177

IRS Logo 2The Daily Signal, Justice Department Knew of IRS Scandal 2 Years Before Congress but Did Nothing:

Recently unearthed documents reveal that the FBI knew the IRS was unfairly targeting groups because of their conservative politics two years before Congress even heard about the agency’s misconduct.

The revelation has already added fodder to the conservative case to impeach the current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Almost 300 pages of documents released Thursday and obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act confirm that the IRS subjected conservative groups to increased scrutiny beginning in 2011.

Even though the FBI uncovered the scandal in 2011, the documents show, the Department of Justice chose not to act.

Legal Insurrection, Top IRS Officials Knew Agency Targeted Conservative Groups:

What a shock. Judicial Watch discovered that top IRS officials, including Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, knew that the agency targeted conservative groups before they told Congress.

Washington Examiner, IRS Chief's Reaction After Learning About Tea Party Targeting: 'Oh, S--t':

Then-IRS chief Steven Miller threw his pencil across the room and yelled, "Oh, s—t" when he was told in the spring of 2012 that his agency had been targeting Tea Party groups for heightened security, according to newly released documents.

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July 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

IRS Launches Investigation Of Clinton Foundation

CLinton Foundation (2017)Daily Caller, IRS Launches Investigation Of Clinton Foundation:

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen referred congressional charges of corrupt Clinton Foundation “pay-to-play” activities to his tax agency’s exempt operations office for investigation, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

The request to investigate the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation on charges of “public corruption” was made in a July 15 letter by 64 House Republicans to the IRS, FBI and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They charged the foundation is “lawless.” ...

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July 28, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

Facebook Ignores Seven Summonses From The IRS Demanding Documents On Its Offshore Tax Strategies

Facebook (2016)Following up on my previous post, IRS Sues Facebook For Billions In Undervalued IP Assets In 2010 Irish Transfers: Bloomberg, Facebook Fails to Show Up for Seventh Tax Summons From IRS:

Facebook officials failed to show up after getting seven summonses from the Internal Revenue Service demanding internal corporate records on one of its offshore tax strategies, according to an IRS court filing.

U.S. authorities are examining Facebook’s federal income tax liability for the period ending Dec. 31, 2010 and are looking at whether the company understated the value of global rights for many of its intangible assets outside the U.S. and Canada that it transferred to a subsidiary in low-tax Ireland.

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July 28, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1176

IRS Logo 2Legal Insurrection, Hillary: As President, Trump Could Use IRS to Target His Enemies:

Have you noticed that many of Trump’s critics accuse him of things he hasn’t done yet but which other people have actually done already? The latest example comes from the presumptive Democratic nominee who warns President Trump could use the IRS to target his enemies.

Imagine that.

Watch Hillary Clinton paint a picture of this potential travesty which already unfolded under President Obama.

Hillary has one thing going for her here. The media has pretty much abandoned all reportage of the IRS targeting scandal. How many average Americans even know Obama used the IRS to silence tax paying Americans in the run up to the 2012 election and got away with it?

David Reaboi made the point well on Twitter:

Tweet

If we had an honest media, Hillary would have been laughed off the stage for saying this.

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July 28, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1175

IRS Logo 2Hot Air, Hillary: Can You Imagine Electing a Vindictive Man Who Might … Send the IRS After His Critics?:

You know what? I can imagine it. Pretty vividly, actually. Right down to the names of the “hypothetical” IRS officers involved.

Of all the examples she could have cited to make the point that Trump is a loose cannon, how did she and her speechwriters conclude that this was one worth floating? I understand calling him out for wanting to issue illegal orders to the military; that’s the most alarming thing he’s said since he got in the race. But attacking Trump over a potential IRS gone rogue is like attacking him for potentially wanting to intervene in foreign civil wars without Congress’s approval. We’ve seen that movie already. In fact, Hillary Clinton produced that movie.

Even lamer, if the IRS decides to start taking down political enemies, it’s more likely they’d focus on taking down President Trump himself than his adversaries. Judging by their political donations, IRS employees lean in exactly the partisan direction you’d expect the taxman to lean. Obama didn’t need to tell Lois Lerner to target tea partiers. That sort of thing would occur to her naturally given the agency’s institutional lean.

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July 27, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1174

IRS Logo 2The Hill, Hatch: Senate Won't Remove IRS Head:

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee says a House effort to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has no chance of moving through the Senate.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the most senior Senate Republican, on Thursday said his colleagues and Koskinen don’t always agree but that those conflicts shouldn’t cost the commissioner his job.

“We can have our disagreements with him, but that doesn't mean there's an impeachable offense,” Hatch told reporters at the Capitol. “And for the most part he's been very cooperative with us."

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July 26, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, July 25, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1173

IRS Logo 2Politico, Hillary Clinton Warns: Trump Could Use Military, IRS To Punish Critics and Opponents:

At a campaign event in Springfield, Illinois Wednesday afternoon presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton warned Donald Trump would use the military and IRS "to go after his critics and opponents." ...

"Imagine if he had not just Twitter and cable news to go after his critics and opponents, but also the IRS, or for that matter our entire military," Clinton said. "Given what we have seen and heard, do any of us think he'd be restrained?"

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July 25, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The IRS Scandal, 1172

IRS Logo 2Politico, IRS Manager Punished for Attending Obama Rally on Work Trip:

A supervisor at the Internal Revenue Service has received a 14-day suspension for ditching work in 2012 to attend a re-election rally for President Barack Obama.

The IRS official's actions violated the Hatch Act, a federal law limiting politicking by government employees, according to a statement Wednesday from the Office of Special Counsel. ...

The statement did not name the IRS staffer, but said she is an "operations manager" for the tax agency. The 14-day unpaid suspension was agreed to by the worker as part of a settlement that also resolved charges she violated the tax agency's internal code of conduct, the statement said.

"Federal employees are encouraged to participate in the political process, but they must do so on their own time, outside the workplace, and in their personal capacity,” Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said.

Several enforcement actions have been taken against IRS personnel for political activity in the 2012 election cycle.

In 2014, Lerner's office announced that an IRS help line worker received a 100-day unpaid suspension for urging callers to support Obama and for reciting a pro-Obama chant "based on the spelling of the employee's last name."

The personnel actions come amid continuing Republican complaints of anti-conservative bias at the tax agency. Some House GOP lawmakers are pressing a drive to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over his alleged lack of cooperation with Congressional investigations into the bias claims.

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July 24, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1171

WSThe Politicization of Everything, The Weekly Standard (Aug. 1, 2016):

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent outburst against Donald Trump has been roundly criticized by people of all political stripes. Insofar as her comments suggested a clear bias about cases that could come before the Supreme Court, they were clearly a mistake and a departure from the norms of Court behavior. After predictable media attempts to defend her by saying "everyone does it," Justice Ginsburg apologized and walked back her remarks.

This is not, however, a one-off incident. It is part and parcel of a clear and consistent pattern of the left's increasing politicization of everything. And the chief instigator of this behavior has been President Obama. In the modern era, presidents and ex-presidents once showed a degree of political restraint. President Obama has blasted through these restraints and spoken freely as a partisan rather than as a president. 

An early example is the president's criticism of the Citizens United case in his 2010 State of the Union address. It is one thing for a president to advance a view about the role of money in politics; it is quite another to launch a broadside about a specific Court decision in front of Supreme Court justices captive in the front row of a nationally televised speech, complete with cheering partisans standing all around. This, of course, resulted in a classic media deflection, namely, criticism of Justice Samuel Alito's silent (and accurate by the way) response. This was certainly no sign of presidential respect for the Court's independence.

President Obama's behavior here was of a piece with his comments about the unfolding IRS scandal in 2014. Here was a genuine abuse of government power, replete with lying, stonewalling, and the wanton destruction of public documents. It would be one thing if the president were to opine about a congressional investigation into the IRS scandal. It is quite another to do so when the president's Justice Department had launched its own investigation of the IRS.

It is perhaps fair to say that the administration's investigation, headed by Justice Department attorney (and Obama contributor) Barbara Bosserman, was a sham from the beginning. But is it acceptable for the president to pronounce there was not "even a smidgen" of IRS wrongdoing while the Justice Department's so-called investigation was underway? ...

With regard to IRS targeting of political opponents, for example—the temerity of which would make Richard Nixon blush—was there really a sufficient reason to excuse lying, stonewalling, and the destruction of computers and literally thousands of emails? Is there no single Democrat who can rise above his or her own partisanship and acknowledge that while there may be partisan gain for Republicans, an investigation might also be good for the defense of liberty and government restraint? Would they want the IRS to target them?

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July 23, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Grewal & Hemel Debate:  Why Doesn’t The IRS Comply With The Congressional Review Act?

Yale Journal on Regulation Notice & Comment Blog: Why Doesn’t the IRS Comply with the Congressional Review Act?, by Andy Grewal (Iowa):

Under the Congressional Review Act, the effective date of so-called “major” regulations must be delayed to give Congress a chance to veto them via a joint resolution. Major regulations are generally those that would have a $100+ million effect on the economy. See 5 USC 804(2)(A). See also 5 USC 804(2)(B) & (C) (providing other categories of major rules). However, as discussed in recent news stories, the White House and the IRS have signed a memo that exempts tax regulations from the CRA’s definition of a major rule. The IRS apparently believes that tax regulations merely implement statutes and thus do not have a significant effect on the economy. Consequently, they do not require congressional review.

At first blush, the IRS’s position might seem unfathomable. Of course tax regulations significantly affect the economy -- otherwise they would not raise so many controversies The IRS’s notices and regulations on inversion transactions, for example, essentially killed multiple cross border deals, including the $160 billion Pfizer-Allergan merger. And when the IRS interpreted Section 36B to extend ACA tax credits for policies purchased on HealthCare.Gov, that had potentially billion-dollar consequences. Senator Orrin Hatch has consequently raised concerns about the IRS’s failure to observe the CRA and is currently awaiting a response from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

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July 21, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 21, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Tax Army Is Three Times Larger Than The U.S. Army

USA2Chris Edwards (Cato Institute), Tax Army Larger than U.S. Army:

The Office of Management and Budget has released new data on the amount of time Americans spend complying with the federal tax code. Tax Foundation summarizes the data here.

Individuals and businesses spend 8.9 billion hours a year on federal tax paperwork, which is equivalent to 4.3 million people working full-time and year-round on this unproductive activity. That “tax army” is three times larger than our uniformed military of 1.4 million active duty service members.

The burden of tax paperwork can be expressed in dollars. Based on the average earnings of U.S. workers, Tax Foundation finds that federal tax paperwork imposes a $409 billion annual cost on the economy.

The main reason to overhaul the tax code is to increase incentives for working, investing, and other productive activities. But you can appreciate how wasteful the tax code is by considering the paperwork burden of particular provisions.

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July 20, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (9)

WaPo:  Is Chief Counsel Retaliating Against IRS Attorney Who Blew Whistle On Multi-Billion Dollar Black Liquor Tax Credit Giveaway?

IRS Office of Chief Counsel Logo (2015)Washington Post, Is the IRS Getting Back At An In-House Critic?:

Three hundred and twenty days ago, the Internal Revenue Service launched an investigation of one of its own lawyers over things he allegedly told media outlets, including The Washington Post, about a multibillion-dollar corporate tax credit scheme involving a source of energy informally known as black liquor.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which examines criminal allegations, questioned William Henck on Sept. 11, 2015, wrote a report and gave it to the IRS chief counsel to decide whether any wrongdoing took place.

Then nothing.

Henck is still waiting to find out what the inspector general recommended — and what, if anything, the IRS is going to do about it. He was told by the inspector general’s office that its report, completed at least six months ago, can’t be shared with him. The matter now rests in the hands of the IRS chief counsel. The IRS has declined to comment on the matter, and the Treasury, which oversees the IRS, said it is up to the agency and would not comment.

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July 20, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1168

IRS Logo 2The Hill, Hillary Clinton's IRS Abuse Chutzpah:

After skating through the FBI investigation and successfully stonewalling the Benghazi committee, Hillary Clinton is now worried that Donald Trump will use the IRS against his political enemies. ...

One might give Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, a small amount of credence if she had joined Republicans in their efforts to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his part in the cover-up of Lois Lerner's campaign against conservative groups from her IRS perch, but she didn't.

Is it possible that Clinton is so unaware of what is going on that she didn't know that the Obama IRS has been weaponized against Tea Party groups? ...

[T]he explanation for Clinton and her staff's blind ignorance to President Obama's abuse of not only the IRS, but also the Departments of Labor, Homeland Security and Justice in targeting conservative group leaders like Catherine Engelbrecht of Texas might be because Clinton only gets her news from Obama cheerleader outlets like MSNBC — which scoffed at the IRS abuse story, actively participating in the cover-up through its editorial decisions.

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July 20, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1167

IRS Logo 2The Hill, GOP Platform Calls for Impeachment of IRS Chief:

The Republican Party platform adopted Monday calls for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen to be impeached and removed from office.

The commissioner "has lied to Congress, hidden evidence, and stonewalled investigations,” the platform states without explicitly using Koskinen's name. “He should be impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate.”

The GOP platform calls the IRS “toxic” and says the agency “has become an ideological attack dog for the worst elements of today’s Democratic Party.”

Republicans are calling for the repeal of the “Johnson Amendment,” which bars nonprofits from endorsing political candidates.

“Places of worship for the first time in our history have reason to fear the loss of tax-exempt status merely for espousing and practicing traditional religious beliefs that have been held across the world for thousands of years, and for almost four centuries in America,” the platform states. “We value the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith.”

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July 19, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 18, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1166

IRS Logo 2The Daily Signal, House Conservatives Explain Latest IRS Chief Impeachment Push: ‘Leadership Has Been Too Timid to Go After Corruption’:

The House Freedom Caucus has launched a pressure play against Republican leadership in an effort to force a vote on impeaching John Koskinen, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Before Congress skipped town Thursday for a seven-week recess, Reps. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., and John Fleming, R-La., filed a parliamentary measure known as a privileged resolution on behalf of the Freedom Caucus.

The effort hinges on maximizing public pressure on lawmakers during their summer recess, Huelskamp told The Daily Signal. Conservatives hope that populist opposition to the IRS in congressional districts will translate into support for impeachment on Capitol Hill.

But when Congress returns Sept. 6., lawmakers have two legislative days to vote on either impeaching Koskinen or tabling the measure.

And by going straight to the floor, the Freedom Caucus has bypassed the regular committee process, bucked GOP leadership, and widened an expanding chasm within Republican ranks.

Establishment aides describe the effort as a publicity stunt while their conservative contemporaries say it is part of a greater effort to overcome leadership’s opposition to impeachment. ...

Koskinen’s lawyer, in a statement to Bloomberg News, described the Freedom Caucus case as an “unfortunately repeated conspiracy theory that was long ago discredited.”

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1165

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, How Conservatives Hope to Win the IRS Impeachment Vote:

Conservative lawmakers behind the resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen have a not-so-secret weapon that they hope will lead to a successful impeachment vote in September: public outrage.

Reps. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., and John Fleming, R-La., made a motion on Thursday to call up their impeachment resolution on a privileged basis, essentially forcing the House to vote on it. That motion won't be considered until the House returns in September from conventions and the summer recess.

Some already see the intervening seven weeks as a cooling off period that gets Republican leaders off the hook, since they don't want to hold the vote.

But Huelskamp and Fleming say the time back home might subject lawmakers to several weeks of pressure from constituents who are demanding an impeachment vote to finally hold somebody in Washington — anybody — accountable. ...

GOP leaders don't agree, and would rather focus on a more moderate agenda that gives voters a reason to keep Republicans in charge of the House and Senate. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Thursday tried to calm things down by saying the GOP would have a "family" discussion about impeachment once members return. ...

But while leaders hope things calm down, supporters of impeachment are hoping voters let lawmakers know they're mad as hell. That would put more pressure on the House to not only hold the vote, but to vote in favor of impeachment.

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July 17, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1164

IRS Logo 2American College of Tax Counsel, Letter to Paul Ryan, Kevin Brady, Nancy Pelosi & Sander Levin (July 13, 2016):

On behalf of the Officers and the Board of Regents of the American College of Tax Counsel, I write to express our significant concerns with the resolutions being considered with respect to the possible impeachment and censure of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen. It is our view that such actions are not commensurate with the alleged conduct and will damage the agency at a time when it needs strong leadership. We do not see any benefit to the agency or our system of laws that could arise from moving forward with these actions.

The Officers and Regents of the College are senior, experienced tax lawyers with decades of experience in dealing with the Internal Revenue Service. Many of our colleagues have devoted years of their professional careers to working at the agency, in service of our country. We have watched the agency struggle with significant decreases in funding that have caused staffing and morale issues. In our practices we have seen the negative impact this has had on our clients, the taxpayers. We often disagree with actions taken by the Internal Revenue Service, and at times we think that things should be done differently. Overall, however, we think that the agency serves the American people in a manner consistent with its vital mission, especially in view of the complexity of the tax law, the additional responsibilities that it has been given over the past few years, and the severe financial constraints under which it operates.

We see the benefits of the steady hand that Commissioner Koskinen, an experienced, dedicated and respected public servant, provides. Ifhe were to be replaced now, the agency would have its fifth Commissioner in four years. This is an enonnous organization - it employs over 78,000 people and processes nearly 150 million individual income tax returns filed each year. To be an effective leader, the Commissioner needs to take time to build up the knowledge base, as Commissioner Koskinen has done, and it takes time to build up trust in the employees. We think that the agency and the country will be well served if he is willing and allowed to continue on the path that he has set.

We would respectfully request that Congress reject impeachment and censure, and instead apply its time and attentions to improving both the tax law and the administration of our tax system.

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

Friday, July 15, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1163

IRS Logo 2Washington Post, House Conservatives Try to Force Vote to Impeach IRS Chief:

A group of House conservatives is making a last-ditch effort to force a floor vote to impeach Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen because of their continuing frustrations over how the agency has treated small-government groups.

House Freedom Caucus members John Fleming (R-La.) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) on Thursday employed a rarely used procedural maneuver that allows any member to have an issue considered by the full House.

The move means that any action would probably happen shortly after lawmakers return in September following a seven-week recess.

“Congress has held countless congressional hearings on the impeachable offenses of Koskinen — but there have been zero consequences for his behavior,” Huelskamp said in a news release. “It is time for him to be impeached and removed.”

The lawmaker said a vote is “necessary to bring national attention to this disgrace and to impeach and remove at least one Obama Administration official.” ...

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has resisted holding a vote to impeach Koskinen, but the move by Fleming and Huelskamp will force him to deal with the issue in September. ...

The IRS said Thursday that history is on Koskinen’s side. “Commissioner Koskinen believes that a traditional, fair impeachment process that follows historical precedent would demonstrate that neither impeachment nor censure is warranted,” the agency said in a statement. “If this proceeds, he deserves an opportunity to refute the allegations and fully respond to these charges before a House vote on the allegations. The Commissioner has made it clear that he testified truthfully and that the facts clearly do not support the claims.”

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July 15, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Advocacy Group Launches AuditIRS.com

AuditTax Revolution Institute, National Tax Watchdog Launches AuditIRS.com: First Independent Audit of the Internal Revenue Service:

The Tax Revolution Institute (TRI) — a Washington-based nonprofit group that promotes “justice and integrity in the tax system” — is taking a whole new approach to shedding light on the Internal Revenue Service: Today, it is announcing the launch of the first-ever independent audit of the IRS.

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July 14, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1162

IRS Logo 2Politico, Freedom Caucus Goes All-In On IRS Impeachment:

The House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday set in motion a plan to force a vote to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, bucking House GOP leaders who oppose the idea and worry it will lower the bar for such extreme actions in the future.

The group of right-wing rebels led by Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Tuesday had warned Paul Ryan they would file a privileged resolution — effectively bypassing leadership — if the House speaker did not agree to initiate impeachment proceedings in the Judiciary Committee.

Reps. John Fleming (R-La.) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) filed the measure calling for Koskinen's ouster. Due to the procedure they used to introduce the resolution, it is not "privileged" and is therefore referred to the Judiciary Committee, which does not have to act on the controversial measure.

However, Fleming and Huelskamp are expected to refile a similar measure on Thursday using a slightly different procedure, according to Republican leadership sources. This second resolution would be "privileged," meaning whoever files it can force a floor vote on the measure, although with the House ready to adjourn for a seven-week recess, that would like not take place until September.

Huelksamp said there "will be some action on it tomorrow," but declined to say exactly what he, Fleming and the Freedom Caucus are planning.

Some senior Republicans believe the move to impeach Koskinen — which will fail if the Senate doesn't go along — is a cunning political ploy by the Freedom Caucus. It puts Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a box; he and other top Republicans can oppose the motion and be portrayed by conservative critics as protecting Koskinen, or they can support it despite concerns that it is not an appropriate action by the House.

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July 14, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1161

IRS Logo 2Politico, Freedom Caucus Threatens End Run Around Ryan on IRS Impeachment:

House conservatives are threatening to force a vote to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, bucking Republican leaders who don't believe his actions warrant such severe consequences.

Leaders of the House Freedom Caucus presented Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) with a choice on Tuesday: Move our impeachment resolution forward in committee on your own accord, or we will likely force the matter by filing a "privileged resolution." In other words, an end run around leadership to the House floor.

They want a commitment from Ryan by the end of the week on a timetable to advance the impeachment measure. ...

Ryan responded by asking the caucus to hold off on forcing any sudden action, according to a person familiar with a meeting with Ryan Tuesday at which caucus leaders brought up the matter. Republican lawmakers deserve a chance to discuss the matter in conference, Ryan said, adding that any further action on Koskinen should be a “team decision."

Conservatives used the same procedure a year ago to launch a pressure campaign that ultimately drove then-Speaker John Boehner from office. ...

Should Ryan and the Judiciary Committee fail to advance the impeachment resolution, the Freedom Caucus will likely file the privileged resolution. A floor vote, however, is unlikely to come before members break for summer recess this week. The House will return in September.

Even Republicans who don't like the idea and don't support it have said privately they will have to vote for impeachment for fear of how it will play back home should they vote the other way.

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July 13, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

IRS:  Birth Of Baby Is 'Unforeseen Circumstance' Justifying Pro Rata § 121 Exclusion Of Gain On Sale Of Home Owned Less Than 2 Years

NewbornThe § 121 exclusion of up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples) of gain on the gain on the  sale of a home requires that the home be used as the taxpayer's principal residence for at least two of the previous five years.  Section 121(c) allows a pro rata exclusion if the taxpayer's failure to meet the two year requirement is caused by "change of employment, health conditions, or such other unforeseen circumstances as may be specified by the Secretary."  Reg. § 1.121-3(e)(2) lists several unforeseen circumstances safe harbors, including:

  • involuntary conversion of the home
  • natural or man-made disasters or acts of war or terrorism resulting in a casualty to the home
  • death
  • unemployment
  • change in employment status that results in inability to pay housing costs and living expenses
  • divorce
  • multiple births resulting from the same pregnancy.  

In Priv. Ltr. Rul. 2016-28-002 (Apr. 11, 2016), the Service ruled that the birth of a second child constituted an unforeseen circumstance when the taxpayers purchased their two-bedroom condo.

July 12, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1160

IRS Logo 2Politico Morning Tax, News on the Koskinen Front:

After lying dormant for a while, there’s been some news on the effort by some House Republicans to impeach or censure or strip the salary of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Relatively minor news, but news all the same. First, our Katy O’Donnell reports that a bipartisan group of eight former IRS chiefs took strong exception to the impeachment effort. “We believe these actions are both disproportionate and counterproductive. They would do serious, long-term damage to our revenue system,” they wrote in a letter to House leadership and the top Republican and Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. And while Ways and Means members haven’t been out front in the anti-Koskinen effort, Brady endorsed the no-salary effort. After a panel discussion on tax reform organized by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Brady said he takes, "every chance I get to make the case that this IRS ought to behave differently," Tax Analystsreported. Sources on the Hill have been less than enlightening about where things stand on the matter. But it’s a fair guess that some of Koskinen’s fiercest critics see bigger fish to fry — like investigating the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices.

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July 12, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, July 11, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1159

IRS Logo 2Heartland Institute, House Lawmakers Censure IRS Commissioner Koskinen:

A U.S. House committee overseeing the administration of justice in federal courts and agencies voted to censure a high-ranking Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official for his role in covering up abuses of power at the federal revenue-collection agency.

Beginning in 2010, employees of IRS’ Exempt Organizations division, under the supervision of division Director Lois Lerner, violated IRS policies by singling out organizations for special examination based on a group’s name or policy positions, with the aim of slowing or preventing the ability of conservative organizations to receive tax-exempt donations in the run-up to the 2012 elections.

Lawmakers on the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee say John Koskinen, the current IRS commissioner, participated in covering up Lerner’s actions by destroying public records and stonewalling government investigations.

With the committee having approved the censure in June, the House will vote on the measure. If the censure is approved, Koskinen will be stripped of his taxpayer-funded pension and other government perks.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a member of the House Oversight Committee, told Budget & Tax NewsKoskinen’s actions and statements meet the legal standard necessary for censure.

“We think the standard is dereliction of duty, gross negligence, and breach of public trust,” Jordan said. “Obviously, Mr. Koskinen has done just that. When it’s something of this magnitude, where documents are under two subpoenas and there have been three document preservation orders in place, and under his watch 422 backup tapes were destroyed containing potentially 24,000 e-mails, … that’s a breach of public trust and gross negligence.” ...

Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, says the IRS has also refused to enforce Obamacare provisions.

“In terms of the bigger question of what the IRS has done wrong, it goes way beyond the attempted suppression of Tea Party groups,” Mitchell said. “It deals with everything from the fact that they arbitrarily and unilaterally ignore certain Obamacare law provisions simply because the White House decided that they wanted to change the rules, notwithstanding that the law theoretically means what the law says.”

Mitchell says IRS has effectively become a “weaponized” arm of the government.

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July 11, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1158

IRS Logo 2Daily Caller op-ed: IRS Hides Records Revealing White House Collusion As Americans Tire Of Constant Scandals, by Mark Meckler (President, Citizens for Self-Governance):

At some point, news of corruption, collusion, and injustice is so common with the Obama administration, it ceases to shock. But here’s the latest nugget of information that will fail to make the headlines of the mainstream media – this time, it deals with the IRS refusing to obey a Freedom of Information Act request that could prove that the White House colluded with them in this scandal.

But this is just one of many scandals, right? Let me refresh your memory if you have lost track. In a stunning show of the Obama Administration’s abuse of power, the IRS admitted at the highest levels to targeting, harassing and intimidating tea party, Christian, pro-Israel and other conservative groups. Their intimidation undermined the ability of ordinary Americans to express themselves and freely participate in the democratic process. In fact, since this was going on during the last Presidential election, their shenanigans could’ve played a role in suppressing the conservative vote.

Which, of course, is why they did it. ...

A new court filing claims that the IRS barely searched for records that would reveal the agency disclosed taxpayer data to the White House without authorization.

CoA Institute issued the FOIA request for documents after a White House official discussed what was supposed to be the private tax status of the Koch Industries’ multi-billion dollar company. Though tax payer information is supposed to be tightly guarded, Austan Goolsbee (chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers at the time) freely discussed this confidential information of the privately owned corporation.

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July 10, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1157

IRS Logo 2The Hill, Ex-IRS Chiefs Urge House to Reject Impeaching Koskinen:

Eight former IRS commissioners from both Democratic and Republican administrations are urging the House to reject resolutions to impeach or censure the current head of the agency, John Koskinen.

"Overall, their primary impact would be to harm millions of everyday Americans, small businesses, and other taxpayers as they attempt to comply with their obligations imposed by our tax laws," the former commissioners said in a letter sent this week to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Some House Republicans, particularly members of the House Freedom Caucus, have called for Koskinen's impeachment because they believe he failed to comply with a subpoena and lied under oath during a House investigation into revelations that the IRS had given extra scrutiny to Tea Party groups' applications for tax-exempt status.

The former commissioners said that Koskinen has been doing good work in the job. "In our view, much of the success of the present IRS is attributable to its dedicated and capable employees and the leadership of Commissioner Koskinen," they said.

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July 9, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, July 8, 2016

TIGTA:  IRS May Have Allowed 60% Of Former Employees (Including Those Subject To Disciplinary Proceedings) Access To Buildings, Computers

TIGTAThe Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has released Access to Government Facilities and Computers Is Not Always Removed When Employees Separate (2016-10-038):

During Fiscal Year 2014, more than 4,100 full-time, permanent employees separated from the IRS, including 186 who separated during a pending disciplinary case (including criminal misconduct). It is important for the IRS to recover security items, such as Government identification, to prevent former employees from unauthorized entry to IRS facilities and workspaces, accessing IRS computers and taxpayer information, or potentially misrepresenting themselves to taxpayers. ...

Based on a random sample of Fiscal Year 2014 employee separations, TIGTA estimates that the IRS could not verify that all security items were recovered for more than 2,700 (66 percent) of the more than 4,100 employee separations. TIGTA also reviewed a judgmental sample of 10 employees who separated during a pending disciplinary case. The IRS could not verify the recovery of the security items for six of these employees and could not provide evidence that these cases were referred to the TIGTA Office of Investigations as required. When the IRS did not collect security items, some were later used to enter IRS buildings.

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July 8, 2016 in Gov't Reports, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1156

IRS Logo 2The Hill, House Rejects Measure to Cut IRS Chief's Salary to Zero:

The House on Thursday rejected an amendment to a financial services spending bill that would have temporarily cut the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner’s salary to zero.

The amendment failed by a vote of 197 to 224, drawing opposition from some Republicans as well as from Democrats.

Republican Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.) offered the amendment, which would have reduced IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s salary to zero from the date of enactment through the date of the presidential inauguration.

“This amendment is necessary because of the serious mistakes by the IRS,” Buck said.

Buck criticized the IRS for subjecting conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status to extra scrutiny and for destroying evidence that was subject to a congressional investigation on the political-targeting scandal.

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July 8, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

National Taxpayer Advocate Releases FY 2017 Objectives Report To Congress

NTA 2National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson today released her statutorily mandated mid-year report to Congress:

The Internal Revenue Code requires the National Taxpayer Advocate to submit two annual reports to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance. The National Taxpayer Advocate is required to submit these reports directly to the Committees without any prior review or comment from the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the Secretary of the Treasury, the IRS Oversight Board, any other officer or employee of the Department of the Treasury, or the Office of Management and Budget. The first report, due by June 30 of each year, must identify the objectives of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate for the fiscal year beginning in that calendar year.

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July 7, 2016 in Congressional News, IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1155

IRS Logo 2Daily Signal, Conservatives Impatient With House Leadership on Impeaching IRS Chief:

Conservatives’ campaign to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has yielded hearings but little else. As the congressional calendar slips by, some accuse House Republican leaders of dragging their feet on the issue.

“We’re running out of time” to impeach Koskinen, Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, recently told The Daily Signal.

House leadership isn’t serious about impeachment and removal of the IRS chief, Labrador said, adding that he believes House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team probably are “trying to delay it on purpose.”

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1154

IRS Logo 2Daily Caller, IRS Allegedly ‘Determined’ To Hide Records Revealing White House Collusion:

IRS officials barely searched for records that would reveal the agency disclosed taxpayer information to the White House without authorization, a court filing alleges.

IRS employees claimed they couldn’t find any documents responsive to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that would reveal the unauthorized disclosures, but Cause of Action (CoA) Institute’s Friday court filing argues the agency didn’t search email correspondence and only looked through formal disclosure requests.

“In short, the IRS appears determined not to perform an adequate search for records that may demonstrate serious wrongdoing by federal officials — the same officials who are tasked with the duty to protect the confidentiality of taxpayer information,” the filing said.

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July 6, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1153

IntimidationNews Busters, From Cincinnati to Washington: How Lois Lerner's IRS Ruthlessly Targeted the Tea Party, by Kimberly Strassel:

Here is just a taste of what's inside The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech

... Lerner shocked Washington with her May 2013 admission that her agency had harassed Americans. The shocking thing was that anyone was shocked.

Lerner to this day won’t cooperate with any real investigation; the nation has been denied the opportunity to hear her story. But e-mail is a wondrous thing. Between her records and the recollections of her colleagues, we have a vivid portrait of the former head of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit. She was a brassy, self-assured bureaucrat with Democratic leanings and a near-messianic belief in the need for more speech regulations.

And she had a long history. Before landing at the IRS, Lerner spent twenty years at the FEC, rising to become its acting general counsel. Never in all that time did she hide her views that money was a problem in politics and needed more restrictions. She was seen even then as a highly biased FEC enforcer—one who harassed conservative groups that wanted more freedoms in politics.

While head of FEC enforcement, Lerner played a role in the 1990s in going after former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour over a nonprofit group he established called the National Policy Forum, which had been accused of taking illegal foreign contributions. (The Justice Department would later find no evidence of a crime.) She was part of an effort to take down a dozen Republican state party chairmen and the Republican National Committee, over accusations that they had broken finance laws during George H. W. Bush’s 1988 presidential bid. That case stayed open for seven years. 

She’d most famously help wage a small war against the Christian Coalition, in one of the largest enforcement actions in FEC history. The coalition was accused (with no proof) of illegally coordinating its advocacy with Republican candidates. Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard documented that the harassment cost the conservative group “hundreds of thousands of dollars, and countless hours of lost work.” James Bopp (of later Citizens United fame) handled that case, and he revealed in testimony that the FEC team deposed 48 different people, conducted 81 depositions, put in 127 separate document requests, and sent the group 32 different interrogatories containing hundreds upon hundreds of questions. The agency demanded donor lists, and even inquired into whether people in the group were “praying” for each other. Each of the coalition’s 49 affiliates got document demands; it would ultimately hand over 100,000 pages of information.

So Lerner had a lot of practice in harassment even before she geared up at the IRS. Her e-mails show that she was at home in Democratic politics, with biases against conservatives. There’s a 2004 e-mail with a former colleague in which she’s hopeful she’ll be able to get together to “celebrate” a John Kerry presidential victory. In 2012, a friend would muse to her about the “scary” Romney/Ryan ticket and ask how a “creep like Romney” was ever elected in Massachusetts. She’d later that year decline an invitation to a party to celebrate Obama’s expected victory, noting that she was nonetheless keeping her “fingers crossed. And, I did vote!”

When told that Democrats had kept control of the Senate in 2012, she responded, “WooHoo! [I]t was important to keep the Senate. If it had switched, it would be the same as a Rep president.” Her husband, Michael Miles, comes off as a passionate liberal who egged his wife on. On election day in 2012, he told his wife that he hadn’t been able to find the “socialist-labor candidates on the ballot, so I wrote them in.” Three days after the 2012 election, he complained to her about the losers, “Well, you should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.” Lerner replied, “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many assholes.” Conservatives, she explained, were “crazy” and worse than “alien terrorists.”

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

Monday, July 4, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1152

IntimidationABC News, Book Excerpt: Kimberley Strassel's 'The Intimidation Game':

Excerpted from The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech, by Kimberley Strassel by arrangement with Twelve, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, Copyright © Kimberley Strassel 2016.

Cleta Mitchell was sitting in front of her computer in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Mitchell is one of Washington’s most hard-working conservative lawyers, so she spirits off to her home there any chance she gets, for a change of scenery. It was a Friday, May 10, 2013, and she was clearing off the last to-do items, looking forward to a quiet weekend. Instead, her laptop started pinging like mad, notes flooding in from Republican and Democratic colleagues alike. “They all said the same thing: ‘Cleta, did you see? Did you? Lerner admitted it! She admitted the targeting. She apologized. You weren’t nuts after all!’” recalls the lawyer in an amused voice.

The e-mails came within minutes of Lois Lerner's confession. And that was much to the IRS's chagrin. The agency had carefully strategized the moment, choosing an obscure tax meeting as the place where Lerner would let slip the news that her IRS unit had spent three years harassing and silencing conservative groups. Lerner had hoped the little-noticed forum, and the Friday timing, would help skate the moment past the press. Instead, Washington exploded. “I don’t go to those ABA events—they are all communists,” says Mitchell (only half kidding). “But a lot of my Washington colleagues and lawyers were present, and they’d been following this, and they knew exactly what a bomb this was. The IRS was idiotic to think this wouldn’t blow up.”

Mitchell certainly wasn’t surprised. She’d been ferrying—or rather attempting to ferry—several of her clients through the IRS’s tax-exempt program for three years. She’d known there was something rotten on Constitution Avenue since at least 2010, as her applications sat on hold.

What did surprise her was Lerner’s description of events. The head of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit assured the ABA audience that this was just a little low-level slipup. Some “line people in Cincinnati” had “centralized” and delayed tax-exempt applications in a way that was “wrong.” They also sent out some letters that “were far too broad,” asking questions that “weren’t really necessary.” Luckily, crowed Lerner, the Washington IRS office was on hand to make it better. All better.

Mitchell couldn’t believe what she was reading. “When I heard her blaming this all on Cincinnati—when I’d been dealing with the Washington office from day one—well...I was rips---.” ...

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

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1151

IntimidationThe Daily Signal, How the Left Is Using Intimidation to Silence Free Speech:

Most Americans are familiar with the scandal at the IRS targeting conservative groups, but how widespread is the attempt to silence free speech and political activity? Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel says it’s one of the biggest threats to our democracy. She sat down with The Daily Signal to talk about her new book, The Intimidation Game, and the left’s orchestrated campaign to silence those it can’t defeat at the ballot box.

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July 3, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1150

IRS Logo 2The Daily Signal, Conservative Leaders Rally Behind Stopping IRS Abuse of Donor Disclosures for Nonprofits:

Legislation that would prevent the Internal Revenue Service from requiring tax-exempt organizations to include the names, addresses, or identifying information of donors in yearly returns could end up on President Barack Obama’s desk.

The House passed the bill, introduced by Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., by a vote of 240-182 earlier this month.

The White House Office of Management and Budget said the Obama administration opposes the Hosue legislation. The bill “would constrain the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to enforce tax laws and reduce transparency,” it said. ...

The Conservative Action Project, comprised of leaders at over 100 organizations working toward common goals within the conservative movement, recently issued a memo calling for a curtailment of IRS power. ...

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., introduced on June 15 a companion bill to the legislation passed in the House. Scott’s legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. “The IRS’ targeting of groups based on their political beliefs is totally unacceptable, and we must take concrete steps to ensure it never happens again,” Scott said in a prepared statement.

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

Friday, July 1, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1149

IRS Logo 2Investor's Business Daily editorial, IRS Scandal: No End To Lois Lerner's Lawlessness:

Justice:  IRS official Lois Lerner didn't merely target conservative groups to take away their tax-free status, as first suspected, but also handed over more than a million pages of tax returns to the Justice Department. That's a crime.

It's now apparent, if it wasn't before, that the Internal Revenue Service -- which was created solely to collect revenues due the government, not to persecute the administration's political enemies -- has become a kind of rogue agency.

Its chief, John Koskinen, is being threatened with impeachment for not telling the truth in testimony before Congress. But Lerner, more than even Koskinen, has become a symbol of IRS arrogance and illegality.

As Eliana Johnson of the National Review reported this week, Lerner transmitted some 1.25 million pages of tax returns of mostly Tea Party and conservative groups to the Justice Department in October 2010. In Johnson's words, this was "likely the largest unauthorized disclosure of tax-return information in history."

For some perspective, this took place at the start of a three-year period during which the same groups found their applications for tax-free status inexplicably held up, while those for liberal groups were more or less routinely rubber-stamped.

But the actual transmission of their tax returns as part of a fishing expedition by Lerner is the big problem here -- because she also transmitted IRS Schedule B data, which includes the names and addresses of contributors to those conservative groups. That's a big no-no.

Unfortunately for Lerner, tax returns are nearly sacrosanct under the law. Only an active investigation into criminal acts would allow the IRS to give the tax returns to the Justice Department. And then, by law, Justice would have to specifically request them. They didn't in this case.

By the way, a good-government group called the Cause of Action Institute has been dredging all this information up as part of its ongoing litigation in the case. We wish them luck.

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July 1, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1148

IRS Logo 2National Review:  New Documents Suggest IRS’s Lerner Likely Broke the Law, by Eliana Johnson:

Recently obtained documents raise new questions about Lois Lerner’s role in sending confidential tax returns to the Justice Department.

It is likely the largest unauthorized disclosure of tax-return information in history: the transfer of some 1.25 million pages of confidential tax returns from the IRS to the Department of Justice in October of 2010. And it was almost certainly illegal.

The documents, which consisted chiefly of non-profit tax returns, were transferred to the DOJ’s criminal division from the IRS at the request of Lois Lerner, who wanted to get the information to the DOJ in advance of a meeting where she and several of the attorneys in the public integrity section of the department’s criminal division discussed their concerns about the increasing political activity of non-profit groups. ...

“It took an organization over 50 months of investigation and multiple lawsuits to get clarity on the IRS’s own compliance with the rules it enforces against others,” says Dan Epstein, the executive director of the Cause of Action Institute and a former attorney for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “The IRS, in the midst of its political targeting of groups engaged in policy advocacy, was engaging in the disclosure of millions of records aimed at ginning up prosecutions of these groups without going through the legally required channels.”

Federal law prohibits the IRS from sharing tax returns filed with the agency, with very limited exceptions. “The IRS has a special obligation to keep information confidential, that’s how our tax system works,” says Eileen O’Connor, who served as assistant attorney general for the tax division of the DOJ in the George W. Bush administration.

Documents suggest that Lerner’s massive document transfer to the DOJ didn’t meet any of those exceptions, including one that allows the agency to disclose returns for use in criminal investigations — if they’ve been requested in relation to “an actual investigation about a person to whom the investigation is related,” says O’Connor. Both Lerner and the DOJ were interested in figuring out how to prosecute non-profit groups they believed were engaging in improper political activity, and Lerner sent the documents over to the department days before an October 8 meeting with several of her IRS colleagues, an FBI agent, and attorneys from the DOJ’s public-integrity section. There they discussed their mounting “concern that certain 501(c) organizations are actually political committees ‘posing’ as if they are not subject to FEC law, and therefore may be subject to criminal liability,” according to a DOJ summary of the meeting. ...

It looks increasingly likely that the file sharing was part of a broader effort on the part of bureaucrats to push back against the Supreme Court’s ruling, an effort that not only almost certainly violated the law but undermined the spirit of the law and the purpose for which it was written in the first place.

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June 30, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (7)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1147

IRS Logo 2Politico Morning Tax: What's Next For John Koskinen?, by Bernie Becker:

The good news for Republicans seeking to remove the IRS commissioner: A group of legal scholars all agreed that providing false testimony to Congress rises to the level of impeachable offense. But as our Katy O’Donnell noted, there wasn’t a groundswell of support for the case that Republicans like House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Jim Jordan were pushing — that Koskinen only needed to commit a bad act, not have bad intent, to borrow the phrasing of one of the witnesses. “The House has never impeached anyone for gross negligence or I think anything akin to it, and I think opening the door to that is going to present all sorts of serious problems,” said Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina.

In any event, the House Freedom Caucus wants a floor vote on Koskinen’s impeachment for his handling of the investigation into the IRS’s improper scrutiny of tea party groups, as The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda reports.

At the same time, Chaffetz’s measure to censure Koskinen has already passed the Oversight Committee. The last time Congress censured a sub-Cabinet official was back during the Teapot Dome scandal of the Roaring '20s, according to the Congressional Research Service. (Apparently, Teapot Dome was once a plot point on “Downton Abbey.”)

Speaking of the IRS (and the Constitution):  Those GOP efforts to strip Koskinen of his salary via the appropriations process might not be standing on the most solid constitutional footing, according to Richard Rubin of The Wall Street Journal. In fact, it could be a bill of attainder — just like the GOP efforts to take away Koskinen’s pension through the censure process. “This does sound a lot like imposing a punishment without a trial,” said Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School.

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June 29, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1146

IRS Logo 2Politico Morning Tax: How Strong Is That Koskinen Case?, by Bernie Becker:

Koskinen, Round Two: The House Judiciary Committee’s exploration of the potential impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen plods forward today, with a hearing examining the standards for impeachment.

From the looks of things, the proceedings will turn on the question of bad faith. Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at UNC, is expected to testify that ill intent has always been a prerequisite for impeachment in the United States. But some of Koskinen’s biggest detractors have argued that “gross incompetence” is more than sufficient. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus — which forced the Judiciary hearings on impeachment — said last month that impeachment should follow “gross negligence, dereliction of duty and breach of public trust.”

Jordan told POLITICO on Tuesday that he “was very pleased to see that the Judiciary Committee asked Andrew McCarthy to serve as a witness" and is looking forward to the hearing. No wonder — McCarthy’s written testimony suggests the 2013 nonprofit scandal is worse than former President Richard Nixon’s “largely unsuccessful” “endeavor” to abuse IRS powers. But even McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney and a contributor at the conservative magazine National Review, notes the framers of the Constitution rejected “maladministration” as an impeachable offense. So it may fall to Republicans to prove Koskinen intended to obstruct Congress’ investigation of the targeting controversy — something they’ve failed to do so far. ...

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, called out GOP efforts to impeach and/or censure Koskinen as “either pointless or unconstitutional.” Cummings cites several legal experts who said that House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) overstepped his bounds in saying that his censure resolution required that Koskinen forfeit his pension — because that would be an unconstitutional bill of attainder. Katy made a similar point last week and even Chaffetz acknowledged to reporters that the censure resolution can’t actually force Koskinen to lose his pension.

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June 28, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, June 27, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1145

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  IRS Targeting Scandal: Citizens United, Lois Lerner And The $20M Tax Saga That Won't Go Away, by Kelly Phillips Erb:

It was the question heard round the tax world. But it was the answer that made waves. In 2013, then Acting Director of Exempt Organizations at IRS, Lois Lerner, apologized to a room of tax lawyers for the IRS’s inappropriate targeting of conservative political groups. Her comments set off a chain of events that would slash IRS funds, fire officials and consider impeachment proceedings for IRS Commissioner Koskinen’s actions. But the scandal didn’t begin or end there.

July 2008:  In the run-up to the presidential election, Citizens United, a conservative lobbying group, wants to air a series of commercials promoting a film targeting Hillary Clinton, who was seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that they couldn’t, finding that it was a violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as the McCain–Feingold Act). The group appealed. ...

June 22, 2016: ”We’re moving into uncharted waters,” Michael J. Gerhardt, a UNC Chapel Hall constitutional law professor, tells the Judiciary House Committee. Testifing about potential impeachment charges against IRS Commissioner Koskinen, Gerhardt said, “The House has never impeached a sub-Cabinet official. I would urge everyone here to look at alternatives.” He testified “the Founders did not want high-ranking officials in the executive or judicial branches to be subject to impeachment for their mistakes in office,” suggesting impeachment be reserved for more serious offenses.

Koskinen did not attend the hearing, and the IRS did not release an official comment on the proceedings.

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1144

IRS Logo 2Huffington Post:  The IRS And The Self-Minimization Of Congressman Jason Chaffetz, by Ralph Nader:

Politicians who limit the effectiveness of government agencies for short-term political advantages cheat taxpayers and short-change the government. ...

[Jason] Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - a body with powerful tools to investigate government waste, corruption and defiance of the laws. And he has vaulting ambitions, almost running for Speaker of the House last year with only seven years of seniority. ...

[W]hat is self-minimizing Congressman Chaffetz’s principal passion? Trying to impeach, censure or cause the resignation of the head of the IRS, the renowned turnaround specialist John Koskinen. The Utah Roman candle has accused Koskinen of interfering with a congressional investigation, not preserving pertinent records and lying to a congressional committee.

Koskinen repeatedly provided the committee with documentation for his denial of the charges that he was engaged in a cover-up of alleged IRS harassment of Tea Party and other conservative 501(c)(4) organizations applying for tax-exempt status. Ranking minority member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) laid out his own rebuttals, citing the Department of Justice investigation finding that “no evidence that any IRS official acted in a way that would support criminal prosecution” or that any official, including Mr. Koskinen, an Obama appointee, attempted to obstruct justice.

More telling was the exhaustive, multi-year, $2 million investigation by the Republican Inspector General of the IRS, Russell George, who cleared the IRS Commissioner of the Chaffetz Committee’s charges. Mr. George, a Bush appointee, found no politically motivated targeting of these conservative 501(c)(4) applications, no obstruction of justice and no concealing of information from Congress. Some bureaucratic sloppiness, sure, but that was all.

A more cutting judgement came from Law Professor Richard Painter, former Chief Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush, who said “this is essentially a dispute between the IRS and Members of Congress about the 501(c)(4) organizations that further the objectives of political campaigns, including campaigns for Members of Congress.”

Legal observers say Chaffetz’s resolution is not legally binding and is going nowhere. So what’s going on here is the Chaffetz caper is part of an overwhelming attack on the IRS by the Congressional Republicans-an attack that has turned them into major aiders and abettors of those who are sitting on $300 billion in annual uncollected taxes.

Washington Post:  Why the GOP Is Targeting the IRS, by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-WA):

If, as the editorial board suggested in its June 20 editorial, Unfairly Targeting the IRS, the GOP is unfairly targeting the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, what could be its reason for doing so? Follow the money. The IRS controls the “dark money” spigot that fills GOP coffers. If the IRS enforced its rules, or fixed its rules where they could not be enforced, or referred what appear to be self-evident false statements by dark-money groups to the Justice Department for investigation, the river of dark money flowing to the GOP might dry up. Keeping the IRS battered, cowed and on its heels makes strategic sense for the GOP.

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June 26, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1143

IRS Logo 2Kay Bell (Don't Mess With Taxes), IRS Commissioner Impeachment Effort Inches Along at Second, Largely Ignored Judiciary Committee Hearing:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen probably was the happiest person in Washington, D.C., today. On a day when the House Judiciary Committee's second hearing on his possible impeachment might otherwise have garnered much attention, the Capitol Hill session was upstaged by two other events. ...

[W]hat did all normal, nontax nerds who took a pass miss on the Koskinen front? Not much.

Same old, same old: The wagons were circled along party lines, with Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte spelling out the "serious allegations of misconduct" against Koskinen in his opening statement. ...

Giving false testimony to Congress about how the Internal Revenue Service [mis]handled intra-agency emails is an impeachable offense, but House [Republican] action sans Senate support would be a mistake. That was the assessment of Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, at part 2 of the House Judiciary Committee's hearing to consider the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. ...

Michael Gerhardt, however, told Judiciary members that, "In my opinion, I think gross negligence doesn't qualify" as one of the constitutional requirements -- treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors -- for impeachment. Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina Law School, said in his view, impeachable conduct would have to involve "bad intent."

The conflicting opinions of legal experts, which also included George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley and Todd Garvey, legislative attorney with the Library of Congress, mirrored the disputes among the committee members themselves. ...

So far, Chaffetz has been able to get his GOP colleagues on Government Reform to agree to censure Koskinen. But his chances of impeachment the IRS chief are smaller. Neither House nor Senate Republican leaders have expressed support for the effort.

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June 25, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, June 24, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1142

IRS Logo 2PJ Media, Impeachment and the IRS Scandal: Should John Koskinen Face the Music?:

[T]he instant matter involving Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, pertains to an investigation into not a mere “endeavor” (largely unsuccessful in the Nixon case) to abuse IRS powers but actual, concrete abuse, of those powers, including “income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.” I further understand that the instant matter involves the provision of false statements and withholding of evidence from Congress.

I do not purport to have knowledge of the facts of Congress’s investigation. I note however that misconduct that was merely potential and coupled with blatantly obstructive actions was deemed sufficient to impeach (and would clearly have been sufficient to remove) a twice-elected president of the United States who had recently been reelected in one of the largest landslides in American history. It seems patent, then, that if established, actual misconduct in conjunction with blatantly obstructive actions would be sufficient to justify impeaching an unelected subordinate executive official responsible for administering the Internal Revenue Service.

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June 24, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1141

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal, House Republicans Seek to Eliminate IRS Chief’s Paycheck:

Republicans have a new idea for attacking IRS Commissioner John Koskinen: Stop paying him.

Mr. Koskinen’s salary of about $165,000 a year would be cut to zero until the next president takes office Jan. 20, under an amendment the House of Representatives is considering this week. ...

The idea is to prevent Mr. Koskinen from coming to work, as federal law generally bars people from working for free, said Kyle Huwa, a spokesman for Mr. Buck. ...

[L]osing a few months of pay near the end of his career wouldn’t permanently damage Mr. Koskinen. According to his most recent financial disclosure, he is a multimillionaire.

Bloomberg, Push to Impeach IRS Chief Koskinen Stirs Scholars’ Disagreement:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John A. Koskinen committed an impeachable offense by giving false testimony to Congress about his agency’s preservation of e-mails, a conservative lawyer told the House Judiciary Committee.

Nonetheless, it would be “a mistake” for House Republicans to move forward with a drive to impeach Koskinen unless the Senate is also on board, said Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who has written extensively on impeachment. Although the judiciary panel has conducted two hearings related to a possible impeachment of Koskinen, neither House nor Senate leaders have said they support it.

If it succeeded, it would be the first impeachment of an appointed executive-branch official in 140 years.

Koskinen, who took office in December 2013, was almost immediately mired in the agency’s response to a scandal that predated his tenure; IRS officials acknowledged that they had given extra scrutiny to conservative groups that sought tax-exempt status beginning in 2010. He didn’t attend Wednesday’s hearing, but he has said the allegations against him -- that he misled Congress and failed to ensure that the agency preserved all relevant e-mails -- are meritless.

“Every time I testified, I testified truthfully on what I knew,” Koskinen told reporters last month.

During the hearing, which was marked by partisan exchanges from both Republicans and Democrats, legal scholars disagreed on whether Koskinen’s conduct would constitute grounds for impeachment under constitutional language that specifies “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“In my opinion, I think gross negligence doesn’t qualify,” said Michael Gerhardt, a professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina Law School. In his view, impeachable conduct would have to involve “bad intent,” he said.

Yet other witnesses, including Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said the standard is broader. “It doesn’t have to be an indictable offense,” he said. The constitution’s framers also discussed citing “maladministration” as grounds for impeachment, he said. “This is a standard that has room at the elbows,” he said.

Despite pending congressional subpoenas for “all communications sent or received by Lois Lerner,” in March 2014, IRS employees in West Virginia magnetically erased 422 backup tapes, which eliminated as many as 24,000 of her e-mails. Subsequent investigations by the Justice Department and the Treasury Department’s inspector general found that the destruction was accidental.

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June 23, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1140

IRS Logo 2The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing today on Examining the Allegations of Misconduct Against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Part II:

  • Todd Garvey (Legislative Attorney, Library of Congress) (testimony)
  • Michael Gerhardt (Professor, North Carolina) (testimony)
  • Andrew McCarthy (Former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York) (testimony)
  • Jonathan Turley (Professor, George Washington) (testimony)

Bloomberg, IRS Chief Koskinen Fights First Appointee Impeachment Since 1876, by Lynnley Browning:

Impeachment is “the wrong symbol, the wrong act,” said Fred Goldberg, who served as IRS commissioner under Republican President George H.W. Bush. “‘It is both destructive and counterproductive.”

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear from legal scholars and a former prosecutor on whether impeachment-drive leaders can meet legal standards for impeaching Koskinen. The panel is not expected to vote on an actual impeachment resolution, and neither House nor Senate leaders have endorsed the impeachment push. ...

If it succeeded, Koskinen would be the first appointed executive-branch official impeached since 1876, the year Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. And he’d be the only such official below the level of cabinet secretary to receive that dubious distinction. ...

The U.S. constitution says the president, vice president “and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Witnesses set to testify at Wednesday’s hearing disagree on how that might apply to Koskinen’s case.

Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, said impeachment is possible even without a finding of criminal conduct -- though he said he takes “a broader view on impeachment than some of my colleagues.”

Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, said he doesn’t believe “gross negligence” constitutes grounds for impeachment. “My concern is that the impeachment resolution would be lowering the constitutional standard,” Gerhardt said. “It’s lower than what the framers of the constitution had in mind.”

A series of federal investigations into the IRS scandal faulted the agency for ineptness, but cleared it of criminal wrongdoing. In January 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had found no evidence of bias that would warrant criminal charges. The Justice Department in October ended its own probe, which found “substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia,” but resulted in no charges.

“There wasn’t control of the document retention process,” said Mark Everson, who served as IRS commissioner from 2003 to 2007 under President George W. Bush. Complying with the congressional subpoenas “wasn’t handled correctly, and you can’t get out of that,” said Everson, who said he does not think impeachment is warranted.

IRS commissioners weren’t always the most disliked bureaucrats at the most-hated agency. There used to be “greater mutual respect between the IRS and congressional committees,” said Mortimer Caplin, 99, who headed the agency during President John F. Kennedy’s administration.

Now, the rancor evident in the impeachment push makes it difficult for the administration and Congress to work together on important legislation -- including efforts to overhaul and streamline the federal tax code, said Sheldon Cohen, a former IRS commissioner under President Lyndon Johnson. “The adversarial relationship makes tax reform almost impossible,” he said.

USA Today editorial, IRS Impeachment Overkill:

Commissioner Koskinen doesn't deserve this.

With their customary lack of subtlety, House Republicans are trying to unleash a nuclear bomb to swat the proverbial fly. The fly is IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The bomb is impeachment, which has been used against an executive-branch official only three times in the nation’s history.

The allegations against Koskinen, while serious, do not rise anywhere near the level of becoming a fourth historic case. An impeachment resolution — which the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday — would diminish what's supposed to be a last-resort option for removing a corrupt official for alleged “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The IRS scandal does not qualify; for one thing, Koskinen, 76, wasn't even at the IRS when the underlying scandal occurred.

By overplaying their hand, the Republicans are obscuring serious questions about IRS misuse of its immense power. Koskinen was brought in to clean up the agency after revelations in 2013 that its tax-exempt division had targeted conservative organizations, including Tea Party groups, because of their political beliefs. The IRS sent the groups burdensome inquiries and delayed their applications for tax exemption, stopped some from participating in the 2012 presidential election.

While the IRS has a legitimate role in preventing blatantly political groups from exploiting tax-exempt status, targeting groups based on their politics is reminiscent of Richard Nixon using the IRS to harass his "enemies." Even President Obama acknowledged that such actions were “intolerable and inexcusable.” The scandal spurred congressional hearings, high-level resignations from the IRS and an FBI investigation, which found no criminal wrongdoing.

When Koskinen took over the agency, there was a need for openness and disclosure to get to the bottom of what happened. Instead, Koskinen presided over a “clean-up” marked by disappearing emails, bungled searches for backups, and a penchant for secrecy so strong that the IRS has resisted federal court orders to disclose documents to the groups targeted. ...

Republicans have good reason to press for release of relevant IRS documents, such as lists of the 426 targeted groups and emails by retired IRS official Lois Lerner, who was at the center of the controversy. But an official censure of Koskinen last week on a party-line vote of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the looming impeachment threat, are as misplaced as Republicans’ draconian cuts to the IRS budget. As the agency has struggled to do more with less, customer service has withered, identity theft has run rampant and reduced enforcement has allowed tax cheats to get away with more cheating.

If Congress wants to be helpful, it should simplify the absurdly complex tax code and give the IRS enough money to do its job, not waste time on overblown impeachment threats.

Fox News op-ed: Congress, Impeach IRS Chief and Hold Him Accountable for Targeting Scandal Coverup, by Jenny Beth Martin (Co-founder, Tea Party Patriots):

Three years after President Obama said wrongdoers involved in the IRS political persecution scandal should be held "fully accountable," no one has been held accountable.  Aside from Lois Lerner -- whom Obama's Department of Justice refuses to prosecute -- no one exemplifies the wrongdoing at the IRS more than its current commissioner, John Koskinen.

The House Judiciary Committee will vote this week on whether or not to impeach Koskinen; they should do so and the full House should follow and then the Senate should convict him, if there's any rule of law left in America. ...

Far from being chastened after getting caught red-handed in the first targeting scandal, the IRS seems almost emboldened to continue the targeting after getting away with flouting the law. During the initial phase of targeting, the IRS went to great lengths to cover its tracks. Records were purged, files were deleted, emails were mysteriously lost, and, incredibly, computer servers allegedly vanished into thin air. ...

Impeachment is, of course, an extraordinary measure and should be reserved only for the most egregious misconduct. In Federalist No. 65, Alexander Hamilton explained that impeachment is appropriate to address “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Mr. Koskinen’s disregard for the rule of law meets Hamilton’s exacting requirements for impeachment. In fact, Koskinen’s misconduct demandsimpeachment if we are to restore the public trust and move past the IRS’s wholesale disregard for the Constitution.

The Hill, Bush Lawyer Rips GOP for Trying to 'Intimidate' IRS:

George W. Bush's former chief ethics lawyer is slamming congressional Republicans for trying to “intimidate” the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Richard Painter, who is now a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said the House should not pass a resolution to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the measure last week on a party-line vote.

“This is essentially a dispute between the IRS and Members of Congress about the 501c4 organizations that further the objectives of political campaigns, including campaigns of Members of Congress,” Painter said in a letter to Oversight Committee members.

“The IRS is charged with determining whether the activities of these organizations comply with the Internal Revenue Code and it is not proper for Congress to seek to intimidate the IRS in the discharge of its duties,” he added.

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June 22, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1139

IRS Logo 2The Surly Subgroup:  IRS Scrutinized Mostly Conservative Nonprofits: Evidence of Targeting?, by Philip Hackney (LSU):

Documents recently released in a court case demonstrate that 282 of 426 organizations caught in the IRS political advocacy, “Tea Party,” nonprofit organization net that caused such a hullabaloo three years ago, were in fact conservative. This comes three years after Lois Lerner apologized to Tea Party groups on behalf of the the IRS because, she said, it “inappropriate(ly)” selected these conservative groups’ applications for tax exemption for scrutiny based on name alone rather than legal cause.

An NPR report by Peter Overby concludes about the new information: “Whatever the IRS meant to do, this hodgepodge of a list illustrates how the agency bollixed the nonprofit application process.” In this post, I examine this seemingly “common-sense” claim and find it wanting. Additionally, because I have written publicly about this matter both at the time and more recently. I re-examine my conclusions in those writings in light of this new information.

Early on, I assumed that only about 1/3rd of the organizations caught in the IRS net were conservative. I made this assumption based on the TIGTA report because it noted that 96 of 298 applications, or 1/3rd of the organizations, were Tea Party, Patriot or 9/11 groups. I left wiggle room in my writing, but in the back of my mind, this was my assumption. I assumed TIGTA would have reported every conservative group that was in the lot. But, it turns out that about 2/3rds of the organizations  were conservative. Thus, my assumption was wrong. The vast majority of the organizations caught in the net were conservative. Nevertheless, I don’t think this new information demonstrates some additional level of bungling by the IRS that was hitherto unknown. And, frankly, a list like this with little context does nothing to tell us about whether the IRS was fair or not.

The most significant indictment of the IRS in this Tea Party matter has always been that the IRS “targeted” conservative organizations. No one has ever quite given any content to what this exactly means. Presumably it means that the IRS intentionally scrutinized conservative organizations in the application process in order to harm those conservative organizations and did not do the same to liberal organizations. The Inspector General reviewed whether the IRS “targeted” conservative organizations and found that the IRS used “inappropriate criteria” in selecting the Tea Party cases and that this could lead to impartial results. He found no evidence of some animus on the part of the IRS to support a targeting claim.

The targeting assertion, and the Inspector General’s assessment, give us a couple claims that new information could go towards proving: 1) the IRS scrutinized conservative nonprofits more than liberal nonprofits in its application process, and (2) either (a) the IRS did this intentionally, or (b) the IRS did this negligently.  ...

What does this information say about my prior conclusions? In my first quick analysis after the TIGTA report came out I argued that the IRS failed to adopt a careful selection process, asked too many intrusive questions, and subjected them to too great of delays. However, I suggested the IRS was set up for this failure because it had too many complex applications and not enough staff to review all applications with care.

It has to pick and choose organizations to focus upon and it is likely to miss applying appropriate scrutiny to many applications that should have received greater scrutiny while applying that scrutiny to a few organizations in a similar position, and to apply too much scrutiny to applications that should have received little or none. I argued that because of application volume and IRS staffing, the IRS was set up for the type of failure identified in the Tea Party affair.  I still think this is about right, and the new information says nothing new about that conclusion.

Later in Should the IRS Never Target Taxpayers I argued that  TIGTA wrongly took a position that the IRS is prohibited from using names as a means for selecting organizations for audit or for scrutiny of particular applications. It had no firm legal basis for making this claim. TIGTA based it on the principal that the IRS should be unbiased in its work. While certainly true, it seemed to be asserting that there was a duty of consistency as to every application that comes before the IRS. With the quantity of applications and staff, this is not even close to possible. And yet, TIGTA’s claim of “no using names” has become the measuring stick with which the public and commentators review this matter. ...

In the Tea Party cases the IRS had many reasons to believe these organizations might be violating the law by engaging in too much political activity for a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. In fact their names alone were evidence of such a potential intent. Additionally, given the substantial numbers of these cookie-cutter-like organizations, the IRS had good reasons to review all of the Tea Party and Patriot groups to ensure uniformity of treatment and a proper understanding of all of the relevant facts. However, because the IRS was enforcing a legal provision that impacted political speech it should have exercised greater care in its selection process. This new information tells us nothing about these basic conclusions.

Overby seems to suggest that this new information further damns the IRS’s behavior in the Tea Party matter. I find the evidence does not support this conclusion.

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June 21, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, June 20, 2016

How Art Can Blow Apart Your Estate

ArtBarron's, How Art Can Blow Apart Your Estate:

Your Jeff Koons could destroy your estate plan and leave your heirs shell-shocked and scrambling to pay bills. That’s because the Internal Revenue Service is rigorously scrutinizing appraisals of artworks above $50,000 and often demanding value adjustments that trigger unexpected and large tax bills, with penalties and interest added on.

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June 20, 2016 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 1138

IRS Logo 2Washington Post editorial, The GOP Congress Is Unfairly Targeting the IRS:

Most of the country has moved on from the Internal Revenue Service targeting controversy, which turned out to be not much of a scandal. Although initial reports seemed highly suspicious, it’s been clear for some time that administrative incompetence was the likely culprit, not the Obama administration vindictively singling out conservative groups for IRS scrutiny. But Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and the other Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are still outraged. Having turned what could have been a wholly reasonable investigation of IRS carelessness into a partisan scandal hunt, the most concrete result from their inquiries may end up being a gratuitous attack on a longtime public servant.

The committee voted on party lines Wednesday to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the man President Obama tapped to lead the agency after reports that IRS employees had disproportionately scrutinized conservative nonprofits. Nonprofits that may engage in political activity deserve IRS attention, because the government should not be subsidizing political groups through the tax code. The problem was the thoughtless way IRS employees went about determining which groups to examine. Mr. Koskinen, an old bureaucratic hand, was not at the IRS when this happened. He was just supposed to clean things up afterward.

As their inquiry failed to turn up evidence of malign political motives, House Republican investigators turned their sights on Mr. Koskinen personally, claiming that he badly — perhaps purposely — bungled his assignment. IRS employees destroyed a trove of emails the committee wanted to see — after the agency was supposed to be saving them. The IRS’s inspector general found that the erasure was an honest, if frustrating, mistake. Still, Mr. Koskinen’s congressional inquisitors charge, he did not confess to Congress when he should have. Some statements he made to Congress turned out to be untrue. The IRS director has a reasonable response to that, too: He did not immediately know the nature or extent of the gap in emails, and once he did, he ordered his staff to attempt to recover what they could.

The GOP Congress has already harassed and weakened the IRS through counterproductive budget cuts. Now Republican lawmakers appear to be doing their best to deter anyone of competence from ever agreeing to lead the agency. The result of a congressional investigation into IRS dysfunction would end up being more IRS dysfunction.

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June 20, 2016 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (8)