IRS Commissioner

Ending the politicization of the IRS: A new House report recommends nixing the tax agency commissioner’s job

More than a year after the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups became public knowledge, a key House committee has made a long list of recommendations to end the politicization of the powerful federal tax agency.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report, Making Sure Targeting Never Happens: Getting Politics Out of the IRS and Other Solutions, on Tuesday that outlines 15 proposals to reform the IRS, protect Americans’ free speech and privacy rights, and much more.

“As the Committee continues its comprehensive investigation into IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs, both immediate and long-term reforms are needed to prevent such targeting from ever happening again,” Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said in a press release. “We must make structural changes to improve internal oversight and get politics out of the IRS. The current imbalance of IRS power over taxpayers must cede to a system that recognizes and protects the rights of taxpayers.”

The Committee proposes that the IRS commissioner post, currently held by John Koskinen, be replaced with a multi-member, bipartisan commission, which, the report says, would bring much-needed checks and balances to the agency. The IRS commissioner is currently appointed by the president and subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Ex-IRS Chief’s Story is Hard to Believe

During last week’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) grilled former IRS Commission Doug Shulman about the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups that happened on his watch.

Jordan noted that 132 members of Congress asked Shulman about targeting of conservative groups and that 42 major news stories had been written about that same subject. But after getting evasive and deflective answers from Shulman, Jordan moved onto another matter.

He was particularly interested in the 118 trips that Shulman made to the White House in between 2010 and 2011. Shulman claimed that the visits were for budgetary and policy issues, and denied that he ever discussed the targeting of these groups during his trips to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“One hundred and eighteen times you were at the White House, 132 Members of Congress contact you about this information, 42 major news stories about this very subject and you told Congress a year ago, ‘I can give you assurances nothing is going on, everything is wonderful, we’re not targeting conservative groups,” Jordan told Shulman, who was testifying under oath. “That’s why the American people are like, ‘This is unbelievable.’”

Jordan pressed him once again. “One hundred and eighteen visits, it didn’t come up in a causal conversation after 132 members of Congress contacted you about it, are you sure you didn’t bring it up with anybody at the White House?” the Ohio Republican asked.

“Not to my memory,” replied Shulman with a smug laugh, “and it wouldn’t be appropriate, so I certainly believe I did not have any conversations.”

IRS Asked Pro-Life Group About Content of Prayers

IRS

It wasn’t just Tea Party and other limited-government groups that were targeted by the IRS. The bureaucratic agency, which is apparently too big for the Obama Administration to know what’s going on, also targeted an Iowa-based pro-life group:

On June 22, 2009, the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a letter from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio, that oversees tax exemptions requesting details about how often members pray and whether their prayers are “considered educational.”

“Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3),” reads the letter, made public by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that collected evidence about the IRS practices. “Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.”

Unbelievable. Regardless of how one my feel about the abortion issue, this sort of questioning is completely inappropriate, and it is very much a religious liberty issue. What difference does the content of their prayers actually make and why does the government need to know about it? And why do they need to know how often or what percentage of their meetings are spent in prayer?

BREAKING: Acting IRS Commissioner Resigns

Steven Miller

In the wake of a very serious scandal that involved his agency singling out Tea Party groups, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew asked for and received the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller.

President Barack Obama announced this development during a short statement to this press this afternoon. He took no questions, but added that the recommendations made by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General will be implemented.

Quoting a congressional source earlier today, CNN noted that two Cincinnati-based staffers were largely responsible for the discrimination toward Tea Party groups. They have, according to the story, “already been disciplined,” though specifics weren’t provided.

While it’s good that there has been some accountability, much more needs to be done to prevent this from ever happening again. Moreover, President Obama’s response, to this point, had been woefully inadequate. Just Tuesday, the White House still didn’t want to own up that a mistake had been made, despite an admission and apology from the IRS.

The IRS is the problem. It’s very nature is to harass Americans into complying with the United States’ completely incoherent tax code. Couple that with the intimidating nature of this White House, and it’s a recipe for what happened to these Tea Party groups.


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