TaxProf Blog

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 919

IRS Logo 2The Hill:  IRS Problems Extend Far Beyond its Commissioner, by Brandon Arnold (National Taxpayers Union):

Frustrations with the IRS have reached a boiling point, with a group of House Republicans now calling for the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. His ouster is probably well-deserved -- there is evidence to suggest that he misled Congress while under oath and may have broken other laws along the way.  While firing him might be prudent, the real problems with the IRS can’t be fixed by changing personnel. Congress can oust as many commissioners as it wants, but until the fundamental flaws at the increasingly roguish agency are fixed, individuals, families, businesses and non-profit groups will continue to be mistreated.

Consider for instance, the political targeting of groups categorized as non-profits under the Internal Revenue Code. It’s now clear that the IRS selectively harassed organizations for their ideological orientations, which were overwhelmingly conservative. This inconvenient fact effectively (and rightly) forced out Lois Lerner, the IRS honcho who presided over the mess. Lerner is gone, but has anything fundamentally changed at the agency that would prevent such actions in the future?

Sadly, no. After Lerner refused to testify before Congress on the matter, the Department of Justice opted to not pursue any charges against her. Now, it’s time for Congress to step in on behalf of all taxpayers – and there are plenty of things it can do.

One relatively low-hanging piece of legislative fruit would be passing H.R. 1104 -- a bill that would prevent the IRS from imposing gift taxes on contributions made to nonprofit groups. This has been a “sword of Damocles” that the IRS has been swinging over certain groups for years. Were the sword to fall, affected charitable groups would in essence be shuttered as few donors would be willing to pay taxes on contributions. Though much attention has been paid to the treatment of conservative groups under the current Obama administration, this threat imperils groups of all ideological viewpoints, which is why the bill easily passed the House with bipartisan support earlier this year. The Senate should act on it immediately. ...

All of this is not to say Congress shouldn’t necessarily impeach IRS Commissioner Koskinen. If he, in fact, broke the law he should be held accountable before the law. But the primary focus ought to be on fixing the numerous underlying problems at the IRS. The recent scandals present an opportunity to address some of these in a bipartisan fashion. It would be a shame if Congress was so distracted by Koskinen that it failed to do so.

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Comments

If DOJ will not indict, then Lerner has no fifth amendment worries, subpoena her and have her testify.

Posted by: RRP | Nov 14, 2015 10:13:38 AM

The first thing the Republicans should do is decertify all government employee unions which will accomplish much more than impeaching John Koskinen.

Posted by: bflat879 | Nov 14, 2015 10:52:06 AM

Lerner had a lot of help. We can see from the emails she coached her accomplices on how to avoid key words that would show up in searches and to use channels of communication that were not tracked, even though they were supposed to be.

This was like organized crime and really, that is what it is.

Posted by: wodun | Nov 14, 2015 12:24:09 PM