\The Internal Revenue Service has turned over less than 1 percent of the documents Congressional investigators have asked for to determine whether there was intentional targeting of political groups in the auditing process.
And many of the 13,000 pages received by the House Ways and Means Committee since the information was first requested three month ago are duplicates.
That leaves the IRS — according to estimates the tax collection agency made — with some 65 million pages to go.
Imagine what would have happened if you or I had managed to produce not even one percent of the documents the IRS requested within a three-month period. Can you say “Leavenworth” and “frozen assets”?
Audit letters from the IRS typically start out with the word “greetings” before informing you that they believe you haven’t been following the law and therefore are being audited. You are given 45 days or less to comply along with a warning that failure to do so subjects you to harsh financial penalties or even prison time.
Thanks to a Congress that redefines concepts such as leadership, oversight, competency, and courage the IRS responds to no lawful request for information. Apparently the IRS is above the law.
This is not a political scandal. It is a gross and glaring abuse of power uncovered by an independent internal oversight office within the IRS itself. In other words, honest IRS employees that aren’t subjected to threats to their jobs and retirements blew the whistle on those running the IRS.
And it’s not just abuse of audit powers.
During the same time frame the IRS was splurging $49 million on conferences that includes $1,500 a night hotel rooms in Las Vegas for IRS management, making Star Trek parody videos on the dime of taxpayers, illegally sharing donor information submitted on confidential IRS forms by releasing it to opposing political groups, and the outright lying top IRS brass did for weeks about targeting political groups.
Grunts putting their lives on the line fighting for this country have been court-martialed for much less.
The IRS is engaged in obstruction at the very least, If you or I hadn’t turned over documents it would be read as an admission of guilt by the IRS.
This could be considered an aberration if it wasn’t for all of the research done by investigative reporters over the years that shows how the IRS takes it easy on the rich, powerful and those connected in terms of who they pick for audits and how aggressive they are with them. They routinely cut deals with the rich and wealthy who owe taxes but the opposite is true of those who would go bankrupt securing a lawyer. They are cases of the IRS allowing questionable tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations based on the agency’s questionable interpretation of the law. Usually a low ranking auditor or agent catches the glaring mistake and the IRS higher ups overrule them.
Equally distributing are cases where agents or auditors handled big tax cases and were within months of the conclusion of a tax case hired by the very firm they were investigating.
The IRS is probably dribbling out documents slow-mo playing on the public’s tendency to forget about government abuses as the media attention fades. It is a bad strategy for several reasons.
First, the public may not have ever really have liked the IRS but just like taxes they are a necessary evil. They definitely view the IRS and how they go about collecting taxes to be confusing at best.
That said, dislike is a long way from distrust.
In all of my dealings with the IRS I have disliked the process that has been more often than not confusing but I never had a high level of distrust until now.
The behavior of the IRS bass over the last three months makes it clear there are plenty of reasons to dislike and distrust the IRS.
The IRS at its core is a law enfacement agency. They enforce the collection of taxes and have the power of subpoena to do so. If the brass of a city’s police department was so disliked and distrusted by both the community and their own rank and file, any self respecting elected leadership would have gotten rid of them long time ago.
But this is Congress we’re talking about.
Leadership and making bold, decisive decisions aren’t their forte.
The IRS brass know this.
Until Congress does what they took the oath to do — uphold the laws of this land — the cancerous spread of IRS brass using the agency for their own means whether it is to support their political views or lavish lifestyle will continue unchecked.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.