January 27, 2014

TAX ANALYSTS: Trying To Investigate The IRS Scandal, And Meeting “Fortress Secrecy.”

The latest chapter in Tax Analysts’ ongoing efforts to investigate what did and didn’t happen in the IRS’s self-admitted abuse of power in reviewing the tax-exempt applications of mostly conservative groups was written last week. If you didn’t know, that’s not surprising, because while it got some coverage, it didn’t get a lot and in some ways that makes sense. Other than the fact that the IRS released more documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, there wasn’t much news in those documents.

The IRS released the documents in response to a court order that Tax Analysts managed to obtain after the IRS had exhausted every excuse it could think of to delay – I was waiting for “the dog ate my homework” – and continued its whining over how mean we were being in asking it to be transparent to the American people. This is the third installment of documents – documents that are training materials – that the IRS has released and, generally, they haven’t been awfully helpful. And we believe that the odds are good that the IRS’s response to a document request that the agency itself agreed was important enough to get “expedited” treatment is not really a response at all. . . .

Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I have bent over backwards to give the IRS the benefit of the doubt in this black eye some call the “exemption scandal.” I must admit I’m getting a little tired of bending.

Back in the day, as the saying goes, I often referred to the IRS as Fortress Secrecy, a term meant to describe the agency’s obsession with hiding as much of its operations as it can get away with. I am not a casual observer, and I have never seen things this bad. Everything the IRS has done in addressing the exemption scandal leads to just one conclusion: that this agency now believes it is accountable to no one other than itself. Who is responsible for that?

Commissioner Koskinen, you have a problem. President Obama, you have a problem. America, we have a problem. An agency with this much power cannot be unaccountable to the citizens it was designed to serve.

I don’t know, they’ve gotten away with it so far.