At the IRS there’s a new catch phrase going around. It is, “That’s my story – and it’s subject to change or revision at a moment’s notice.”
Setting aside whether it disturbs you that the IRS may have targeted a particular group with a particular political viewpoint, which it should irrespective of your own political perspective, all Americans should be troubled that any organization that has the power to seize your bank accounts, your home and your life savings simply hasn’t the ability to maintain its own records which it is required to do by Federal law – but expects all taxpayers to maintain documentation of the statements they make on their tax returns for seven year
Let’s recap the Congressional investigation into whether the IRS targeted conservative groups, denying or holding up a determination on whether they were entitled to tax exempt status for periods of up to two years.
First, when this news broke we were told that this was a “boneheaded decision” (that comment courtesy of President Obama) which originated from and was restricted to the Cincinnati, OH IRS office.
Second, we found that the order to pay “special attention” to conservative groups actually began in Washington, at IRS headquarters and one mid-upper level IRS bureaucrat, Lois Lerner was at the center of this.
Third, Lois Lerner is subpoenaed to testify and pleads her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, not a normal procedure taken by someone who has nothing to hide.
Fourth, Chairman Issa’s committee requests copies of Lois Lerner’s emails from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen who replies that it might take one to two years to get this information together. That is testimony that he delivers before the committee under oath.
Fifth, Koskinen returns to testify to the committee and testifies that Lois Lerner’s hard drive “crashed” and that many of the requested emails were irretrievably “lost.” Co-incidentally, a number of other IRS employees’ hard drives similarly “crashed” at the same time – people with whom Ms. Lerner would regularly have communicated.
Sixth, the Director of the National Archives testifies before the committee that under Federal law, the IRS was supposed to have furnished his office with all written communications and failure to do so was a violation of Federal law.
Seventh, Koskinen testifies that Lois Lerner’s hard drive was “destroyed” and there would be no way for him to provide the subpoenaed emails.
Eighth, Koskinen testifies that “backup tapes” which might hold the emails exist and that the hard drive which was “destroyed” actually still exists and merely was “scratched” rather than being destroyed. It is possible that there might be data on it which could be recovered.
That brings us up to date – for the moment. Apparently, the IRS’ story is subject to change without notice.
With all the different stories that IRS has told thus far, it is not surprising that nearly three out of four Americans believe that Congress should continue its investigation of this agency. Perhaps the remaining twenty-five percent of us think this is either a waste of time or money and the IRS plays no part in their lives – so why bother? Well, they’re not only uninformed but they’re wrong.
As you may know, Obamacare affects everyone in the country and many of its provisions fall under the purview of the IRS. Yes, they’re the folks who are supposed to determine that you might be entitled to a “subsidy” for your insurance premium and they’re the people who are supposed to penalize you if you don’t comply with the law by buying health insurance. Given their level of either incompetency or downright dishonesty in discussing the Lerner emails, that doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about them – not that I had one before now.
Several years ago before I began taking Gracie to the dog park I used to walk her in my neighborhood. Occasionally I would run in to one man on the next block whom I would greet with a friendly, “Hello, how are you today?” never to receive a response from him. This happened many times and I wondered if there were something that I had inadvertently done to offend him or perhaps he just didn’t like dogs. So I mentioned this to a neighbor who lived across the street from this man and his family. She told me, “Don’t take it personally. He isn’t very friendly. And he works for the IRS.”
I hadn’t thought about this man for several years – until the “phony IRS scandal” emerged. I can’t conclude that the agency engaged in any wrongdoing – but there is that smell to that what with all their changing stories and obfuscation. It’s a little like living next door to a Limburger cheese factory. You don’t have to go inside to know that it’s there.
So it occurred to me, what if this man’s immediate next door neighbor and he had a minor disagreement which they couldn’t resolve amicably? And what if he were a petty person who decided to take things in his own hands? Well, he knows his neighbor’s name and address and it should prove no difficulty to pull up his social security number and, if his position allowed him, what if he decided to “retaliate” by having his neighbor’s returns audited? Sounds unlikely, right? Except that’s precisely what has happened to several individuals involved in Tea Party groups who applied for exemption with the IRS.
The best resolution to this question would be instituting a simple tax code that everyone could understand and with which compliance would be easy – thus eliminating a need for the IRS, or at the least a great reduction in both its size and the scope of its authority. That’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
The second best option is to find out what really happened at the IRS and, if there is illegality and political profiling, make sure that those who were involved get incarcerated and take steps to make certain that the agency gets the oversight so that they don’t pursue the same policies in the future. I have only a moderate hope that happens.
The third best option, and probably the most likely one, is that the agency is truly so internally messed up that they are more than likely to leave us alone through sheer incompetence. Based on the billions of dollars of bogus refunds IRS pays out, this seems to be the most likely case.
One can only wonder if anyone at the IRS including their commissioner has either a handle on the situation or, if he does, plans to reform the agency. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence to point to that conclusion. As for the rest of us, we can amuse ourselves with the classic Abbott and Costello routine and ask ourselves, when it comes to the IRS, “Who’s on first?”