Paul L. Caron
Dean


Thursday, May 26, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1113

IRS Logo 2New York Post editorial, The IRS Boss Is Just Begging To Be Impeached:

Four years after the IRS hobbled conservative groups by targeting them for extra scrutiny, the agency’s still playing politics.

No wonder Congress is looking to impeach its boss, John Koskinen.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Republican lawmakers gave specific reasons for their move: his lies under oath, his flouting of a congressional subpoena — and his repeated defiance.

Koskinen’s response? Ha! He didn’t even bother to show up.

Koskinen was supposed to “fix” the IRS after the scandal erupted over targeting conservatives. Yet his real purpose seemed to be running interference, covering up information and shielding the agency (and Team Obama) from consequences.

Shockingly, he and his agency are continuing that pattern to this day: A lawsuit filed Monday by the Cause of Action Institute accuses the IRS and its boss of refusing to preserve official business electronic communications, as required by law.

Bloomberg View editorial, Impeaching IRS Director A Sham:

Pity John Koskinen, who agreed to take one of the worst jobs in America and is now being punished for it.

In 2013, President Barack Obama asked Koskinen to take over at the Internal Revenue Service amid budgetary chaos, deteriorating morale and a simmering scandal. House Republicans, still angry about that scandal -- and about the concept of taxation generally -- are now trying to impeach him.

Their case is weak, and the ultimate loser in this sorry spectacle won't be Koskinen.

Start with the scandal. An inspector general report in 2013 found that IRS employees had been improperly scrutinizing conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. This was wrong, and blame was duly apportioned. The agency's boss resigned, a top deputy retired, and the director of the offending unit was placed on leave and declared in contempt of Congress. Half a dozen congressional committees vowed to fumigate every pixel of offending detail. One managed to produce an 8,000-page report. The Justice Department investigated (and found no evidence of criminality).

But you have to get up pretty early in the morning to outfox the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the committee's chairman, has made a professional specialty of berating civil servants. He appears to view Koskinen -- who, recall, joined the agency after this scandal -- as obstructing further investigation.

The specific allegations Chaffetz has adduced hardly add up to high crimes and misdemeanors. At worst, they portray mild bureaucratic ineptitude. And removing Koskinen from office stands no chance in legislative reality. Nothing's shaking on Shakedown Street, as they used to say.

Actually impeaching Koskinen -- a punishment not invoked against an executive-branch appointee since Ulysses S. Grant occupied the White House -- probably isn't the objective anyway. The point is to embarrass the IRS. And congressional Republicans have already done a fine job of that by slashing the agency's budget while helping to vastly expand its responsibilities, with predictably frustrating results.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/05/the-irs-scandal-day-1113.html

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink

Comments

NYP yadayadayada . . . “Four years after the IRS hobbled conservative groups by targeting them for extra scrutiny, the agency’s still playing politics.” Nice opening line, but . . . The best thumbnail sketch of the IRS “scandal” is in “The Week,” by Paul Waldman referenced below (maybe tomorrow’s digest headliner, prof?). “[H]ere's what the IRS ‘scandal’ amounted to. Charged with enforcing vague laws on where the line is between a charitable organization and a political organization, understaffed and undertrained IRS employees were overwhelmed when, after the 2010 Citizens United decision, they were inundated with applications from Tea Party groups for special tax status as 501(c)(4) ‘social welfare’ organizations. They gave the applications from these groups (and from some progressive groups) special scrutiny to make sure they were following the law. Some of these groups had to wait longer than normal for their applications to be approved (though when an organization is waiting, it's permitted to go about its business as if it had already been approved).”

Yes of course, it is true that a purported 501(c)(4) organization is permitted to go about its business, nefarious, saintly, or otherwise, as if it had already been approved. Which is the biggest reason the conservative meme about “hobbled conservative groups” is fraudulent.

Posted by: Publius Novus | May 26, 2016 8:53:48 AM

Chaffetz and his cronies should be prosecuted for abuse of power. They are simply misusing taxpayer funds to go after the IRS for no good reason.

Posted by: sw | May 27, 2016 5:44:19 AM

Wow…just…wow. I know the left is seriously invested in the idea this was all just a bureaucratic accident but the Waldman article takes wishful thinking to a new level. A basic review of the facts (based on the TIGTA reports and testimony of the employees in Cincinnati) reveals that practically every statement in his article is wrong.

1) The IRS rules and polices regarding non-profits had been fairly consistent for years

2) After Citizens United there was an increase in applications but it was across the board, not just from Tea Party groups. Far more applications came from non tea-party groups.

3) In response to Citizen’s United, Congressional Democrats and others demanded the IRS crack down on the new groups

4) A line employee asked whether he should treat tea party applications differently since he was hearing a lot about them in the news. His request was forwarded up the chain and IRS management said “yes”.

5) Tea party and related terms were added to the BOLO (be on the lookout) list. Some progressive terms were also on the BOLO list. Responsibility for many of the tea party applications was then centralized in DC under Lerner’s shop and IRS counsel. The line employees in Cincinnati were no longer in charge at this point. Hence, when the key parts of the scandal were taking place, the applications were under the control of executives and lawyers not “understaffed and undertrained employees.”

6) TIGTA has also stated that even though there were conservative and progressive terms on the BOLO list, only conservative groups got the intrusive and burdensome requests for information (including info the IRS had no need for - such as donor lists) and the super long delays. So, “no”, according to TIGTA, progressive groups were not subject to the same level of scrutiny.

7) Finally, while groups are “permitted” to conduct business while their application is pending, the impact of the IRS decision is retroactive. That means if your tax exempt status is denied any activity you conducted while your application was pending is now subject to taxation. This doesn’t matter if you are approved or if you are denied quickly. But if….let’s say…your application was dragging on for a long time and the IRS was acting strangely by requesting lots of unnecessary information, a rational person would be hesitant to conduct significant business until the issue was settled.

Posted by: sigh | May 28, 2016 10:49:49 AM