TaxProf Blog

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1206

IRS Logo 2Vox, How President Donald Trump Could Ruin His Enemies’ Lives:

Indulge for a minute in the worst-case scenario.

A Trump Force One flight to Mar-a-Lago in early January 2017. Donald J. Trump — the pettiest, most vicious version of Trump — is preparing for the ecstasies of his inauguration. He sits by the window, scrolling through Twitter and preparing for a well-deserved weekend at home.

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Corey Lewandowski and Chris Christie — yet to be named attorney general — burst into the cabin with a sheaf of notepaper and a couple of silent young attorneys in tow. "Well, boss," Lewandowski says, "we have a little bit of bad news and a whole lot of good news."

Trump raises an eyebrow. "There are some people we can’t figure out how to get back at yet, but there are a lot of people we can," Lewandowski says. ...

"Now on IRS — we’re doing Kasich and Cruz first, right?" (A nod from the president.) "We figure we just take the memo they sent out about targeting Tea Party groups and make some changes. Every group that’s ever done a fundraiser with those guys, or put up ads for them, or sent them an email, those are going to be audited first," Lewandowski says. "Bezos, we figure, probably next, maybe if the antitrust thing goes too slow. And we’re not allowing any new groups to get registered as 501(c)3s or (c)4s until we figure out who the rest of our targets are." ...

Because there are so many violations, the question of how investigators choose whom to target becomes the most important one. And the specter of politically motivated investigations is always there. This is most obvious when it comes to the IRS.

In 2013, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration found that the IRS had evaluated applications for new tax-exempt 501(c)3 groups, which can’t engage in "political activity," in part based on inappropriate things like whether a group had "Tea Party" in the name.

Conservatives felt this was evidence that the Obama administration was using the IRS to target conservative groups. Moulton of the Project on Government Oversight doesn’t think it quite reached the level of persecution — but still thinks the politically motivated use of the IRS, especially when it comes to tax audits, is a genuine cause for concern.

The government doesn’t even have to use all of these powers to change people’s behavior. Just the very possibility of an investigation is likely to make people tread carefully. Reporters sniffing around might worry about finding themselves snared in a costly audit. ...

In December, NBC and MSNBC correspondent Katy Tur live-tweeted a Trump rally that had been repeatedly disrupted by protesters. She received a note from Trump’s press secretary calling her coverage "disgraceful" and "not nice!" — followed by a tweet from Trump himself, calling for her and a colleague to be fired.

Then Trump singled her out at a rally in South Carolina, pointing to the press pen and saying, "She’s back there. Little Katy. … What a lie. Katy Tur. What a lie it was. Third. Rate. Reporter. Remember that."

Imagine that in 2017, Tur gets an audit request from the IRS for the past seven years of her tax information. She served as a foreign correspondent for NBC before covering the election, and the IRS sends her a letter every few weeks asking for more documentation about how she reported her income while on reporting trips abroad. ...

A vindictive president would need sympathetic political appointees in key positions: attorney general, DHS secretary, head of the IRS, maybe the director of National Intelligence. (The head of the FBI is a 10-year appointment, so James Comey — if he wants to — will be in charge until September 2023.)

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/08/the-irs-scandal-day-1206.html

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Comments

For crying out loud, could the amateurs at least get the code section right? There is a huge difference between (c)(3) (the wrong section) and (c)(4) (the actual one involved).

Posted by: Publius Novus | Aug 27, 2016 5:59:16 AM

I read the full article ... could be an allegory for the Obama and potential Clinton administrations.

Posted by: Snowbird | Aug 27, 2016 7:41:46 AM

Snowbird has it right.

Democrats keep playing the Hitler card when alleging that Trump might act like... Obama. And we all know that using federal agencies to attack political opponents was common during the Clinton years and would likely be again.

Posted by: wodun | Aug 27, 2016 4:38:15 PM