Thursday, July 7, 2022
NY Times: Comey And McCabe, Who Infuriated Trump, Both Faced Intensive IRS Audits
New York Times, Comey and McCabe, Who Infuriated Trump, Both Faced Intensive I.R.S. Audits:
The former F.B.I. director and his deputy, both of whom former President Donald J. Trump wanted prosecuted, were selected for a rare audit program that the tax agency says is random.
Among tax lawyers, the most invasive type of random audit carried out by the I.R.S. is known, only partly jokingly, as “an autopsy without the benefit of death.”
The odds of being selected for that audit in any given year are tiny — out of nearly 153 million individual returns filed for 2017, for example, the I.R.S. targeted about 5,000, or roughly one out of 30,600.
One of the few who received a bureaucratic letter with the news that his 2017 return would be under intensive scrutiny was James B. Comey, who had been fired as F.B.I. director that year by President Donald J. Trump. Furious over what he saw as Mr. Comey’s lack of loyalty and his pursuit of the Russia investigation, Mr. Trump had continued to rail against him even after his dismissal, accusing him of treason, calling for his prosecution and publicly complaining about the money Mr. Comey received for a book after his dismissal.
Mr. Comey was informed of the audit in 2019. Two years later, the I.R.S., still under the leadership of a Trump appointee after President Biden took office, picked about 8,000 returns for the same type of audit Mr. Comey had undergone from the 154 million individual returns filed in 2019, or about one in 19,250.
Among those who were chosen to have their 2019 returns scrutinized was the man who had been Mr. Comey’s deputy at the bureau: Andrew G. McCabe, who served several months as acting F.B.I. director after Mr. Comey’s firing. ...
Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe — whose spouses were also audited because both couples filed joint returns — provided the letters initiating their audits to The New York Times. Mr. Comey provided The Times with a privacy release allowing the I.R.S. to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request about his case. Neither man knew that the other had been audited until they were told by a reporter for The Times.
The minuscule chances of the two highest-ranking F.B.I. officials — who made some of the most politically consequential law enforcement decisions in a generation — being randomly subjected to a detailed scrub of their tax returns a few years after leaving their posts presents extraordinary questions.
Was it sheer coincidence that two close associates would randomly come under the scrutiny of the same audit program within two years of each other? Did something in their returns increase the chances of their being selected? Could the audits have been connected to criminal investigations pursued by the Trump Justice Department against both men, neither of whom was ever charged?
Or did someone in the federal government or at the I.R.S. — an agency that at times, like under the Nixon administration, was used for political purposes but says it has imposed a range of internal controls intended to thwart anyone from improperly using its powers — corrupt the process?
“Lightning strikes, and that’s unusual, and that’s what it’s like being picked for one of these audits,” said John A. Koskinen, the I.R.S. commissioner from 2013 to 2017. “The question is: Does lightning then strike again in the same area? Does it happen? Some people may see that in their lives, but most will not — so you don’t need to be an anti-Trumper to look at this and think it’s suspicious.” ...
The audits conducted on Mr. Comey, Mr. McCabe and their spouses, according to the letters they received from the agency, were carried out under an I.R.S. research program to learn who is — and who is not — paying their taxes.
The agency uses these “compliance research examinations” to determine the tax gap and adjust its dragnets, including a closely guarded formula that is intended to catch tax cheats. The number of audits carried out declined beginning with returns for 2015 because of budget strains before turning up somewhat in 2018 and 2019, the most recent years for which figures are available.
- Jack Bogdanski (Lewis & Clark), The Lottery Winners
- New York Times, How Unlikely Is It That the Audits of Comey and McCabe Were a Coincidence? A Statistical Exploration.
Update #2: WSJ: Comey|McCabe IRS Audits AND ProPublica Tax Leak Should Be Investigated