Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Senior IRS Lawyer Charges Chief Counsel's New York Office With Waste and Abuse

Tax Analysys Logo (2013)David Cay Johnston (Syracuse), Attorney Details Mismanagement in IRS Chief Counsel's New York Offices, 2014 TNT 53-1 (Mar. 19, 2014):

A veteran IRS lawyer opened a window on the secretive operations of one of the biggest IRS field offices March 18, telling 10 senators in a letter that the Office of Chief Counsel ignores serious problems of waste and employee abuse in two New York offices.

Jane Kim, a 10-year veteran chief counsel attorney for the Small Business/Self-Employed Division, wrote that "a sustained pattern of abuse" by chief counsel's supervising lawyers in Manhattan and Long Island, has led to "gross waste of government resources, gross mismanagement, violation of labor laws, and active abuse and retaliation against employees."

The complaint depicts a workplace culture in which favored employees are given light workloads, while their colleagues who pick up the slack face discipline and retaliation if they chafe at unfair treatment. Meanwhile management turns a blind eye to the problems -- when it isn't actively making them worse.

As a result of that negligence, tax cheats often get away without paying, taxpayers needing help go unaided, and good employees suffer more stress in an agency already struggling to deal with budget cuts and public scorn. ...

Many similar complaints have come to me over the years from auditors, revenue officers, special agents, specialists, and clerical staff, but I had no way to verify most of them, though I did write some pieces based on analyzing IRS statistics that were consistent with the complaints.

Kim's complaint alleges that managers in the New York offices let some employees coast by while others are forced to work long hours without proper compensation. She accuses the head manager in the Manhattan office, whom she calls "M1," as being particularly lazy and fostering a culture of work avoidance among his subordinates.

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I have worked for the Office of Chief Counsel, SB/SE, for more than 10 years. Over the years, I have personally reported serious problems and I have watched other attorneys report management misbehavior. The attorneys who have reported mismanagement are usually forced to resign within a few years. They are isolated and overworked. Other attorneys will not even talk to "troublemakers" because of fear of management backlash. At best, management makes some token, superficial changes to hid the problems and then, when everyone's attention is distracted, the troublemakers end up resigning. At that point, they are dismissed as disgruntled, prior employees.
Management's mindset is firmly set against reporting problems. Upper management blindly excuses lower level mismanagement under the theory that the immediate supervisors should never be second guessed. The result is rampant abuse in the field offices, with no effective control by upper management.
For me, the worst part of working in the Chief Counsel office waking up one day and realizing that I have lost most of my self-respect. Over time, the sure volume of mismanagement and unprofessional behavior becomes so overwhelming that it pierces you. You then have to make a choice - stay silent and become complicit or speak out, lose your job, and achieve no real lasting change.

Posted by: keep quiet, say nothing, | Mar 25, 2014 4:21:43 PM

The problem is endemic to the OCC. Managers constantly circle the wagons to protect their own, facetiously destroy the credibility of the accuser, and sweep the issues raised under the rug. They do this for one reason: power. We all know power corrupts and no one is willing to challenge their superficially "earned" power. It's a "slash and burn" mantra for anyone who resists towing the managerial line. It's utterly unacceptable and indefensible in the United States, but sadly nothing will be done about it. OCC is a powder keg...

Posted by: Employee | Mar 21, 2014 7:22:10 AM

Kudos to the IRS attorney for speaking up. This behavior is common, most notably in the SBSE Division of the OCC. Sadly, nothing will be done about it. But kudos nonetheless.

Posted by: Another Attorney | Mar 19, 2014 3:05:59 PM