House Republicans Seek Impeachment of IRS Commish

Two days ago the Justice Department formally closed its investigation of alleged targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service. DOJ found that Lois Lerner and other top IRS managers were guilty of “mismanagement, poor judgment, and institutional inertia,” but had done nothing criminal. This scandal began in 2013 and has been a hot topic in tax professional circles and among anyone interested in government & politics. Over the course of these past two and a half years, the IRS has been investigated by TIGTA, the Justice Department, and even the FBI. Some IRS officials involved in the scandal have resigned under the pressure. Even so, the DOJ stated that there was no evidence that any IRS official obstructed justice or attempted to obstruct justice. Big win for the IRS.

But GOP lawmakers don’t want to put this scandal to rest until justice has been served. Their target is IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, and they’re not interested in settling with contempt or obstruction charges; they want to impeach him. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and 18 other republicans have initiated the seldom-used impeachment process against Commissioner John Koskinen, which will go through the House Judiciary Committee next. Those who support impeachment of Koskinen claim that he has violated the public trust by lying about the existence of emails, or deleting emails, or allowing emails to be deleted on his watch, or any combination of these things. The IRS, of course, insists that it has fully cooperated with any and all investigations, spending upwards of $20 million and 160,000 employee hours in the process.

Interesting footnote: pursuing impeachment against an agency official is rare. Back in 1876 Congress tried to impeach War Secretary, William Belknap, but he resigned before conclusion of the process. Belknap, known as a man of virtues and flaws, was secretary to President Grant, and an attorney by trade. He went back to that trade after it was discovered that he had been involved in bribes and in selling weapons to France.

Commissioner Koskinen Asked to Resign

IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, has been on the job for only a couple years, but he was brought in at a very difficult time for the agency. He was appointed by Pres. Obama and given the task of cleaning things up at the IRS, particularly in regard to the scandal involving targeting of Tea Party groups. Now he has lawmakers calling for his resignation because of the way he has handled the debacle. I bet there are days he regrets accepting the assignment.

The most outspoken republicans insist that Koskinen lied about the missing emails. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is on record saying that Koskinen was in possession of the emails, and then after they were subpoenaed, his agency destroyed them. Many now want him to resign, and if he doesn’t, they are threatening worse. They are throwing around words like “contempt,” “obstruction of justice,” and “impeachment.”

President Obama claims that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” within the IRS, but everybody knows this isn’t true. He needs to be a little more careful with his words. The IRS is huge and people are imperfect, arrogant, and greedy. How can he say there isn’t a smidgen of corruption? He doesn’t know that. All that really means is he has had meetings with those that run the agency who say there’s no corruption, who have had meetings with high level management who say there’s no corruption, who have had meetings with lower level management, etc. There is no way any clear-thinking adult could swallow such a broad statement as that.

According to Chaffetz, there are still at least 5 open investigations into the targeting scandal, including that of TIGTA and the Department of Justice. I, for one, must admit that I am a little surprised that the news of this scandal hasn’t fizzled yet. I think it speaks to how passionate we are, as US citizens, about allegations of corruption within our government.

Supreme Court to Hear Case on IRS Summons Power

If the IRS, as part of a tax audit or examination, wants something from the taxpayer, they tend to ask nicely only once.

Sometimes it is difficult to hand over the books and every last financial detail to the IRS.  It can be somewhat like letting a stranger into your bedroom; even if you have nothing to hide, you don’t want them there.  Also, document requests can be quite burdensome.  Some items cannot be retrieved or compiled without expending inordinate amounts of time and money.  Lastly, the information sought by the IRS can sometimes appear to bear very little relevance to the issue(s) at hand.  But however difficult it may be to comply with a document request, or however ridiculous the request may seem, the IRS usually gets what it wants.

What if the taxpayer doesn’t comply to that initial polite request?  Maybe the IRS asks again with some emphasis, stronger words, or even a threat of summons.  Normally the IRS resorts to a summons only after the taxpayer has ignored a couple informal requests or after the taxpayer has openly refused to provide the information sought by the IRS.  When a taxpayer ignores a summons, the procedure is for the IRS to go to the Justice Department and request a court order to enforce the summons.  And courts have routinely rubber-stamped such requests.  A court-ordered summons is very serious and cannot be ignored without risk of civil or criminal contempt.

This week the US Supreme Court will decide whether or not a taxpayer should be granted an evidentiary hearing in which a judge would determine if a summons is proper and not simply intended to harass the taxpayer, over-complicate the issues, or delay the process.  This is a big case as it relates taxpayer rights.  The IRS should not be able to ask for anything and everything under the sun with no explanation as to its purpose and no procedural mechanism for the taxpayer to dispute it.

IRS Summons

If you have IRS tax debt, you probably receive more IRS mail than you care to admit.  Some of our clients receive so many IRS notices and letters that it becomes difficult to keep up with them.  Obviously, it is very important to open and read every single correspondence you receive from the IRS.  But one type of notice ranks right up at the top in terms of priority: the IRS Summons (Form 2039).

The IRS uses the summons to secure documents and records from taxpayers, normally only after informal attempts have been made without success.  The IRS is typically trying to ascertain the accuracy of a tax return, to determine the liability of a taxpayer, or to collect back taxes.

One way or another, you must respond to your summons.  One of the reasons the summons is so important is if you fail to comply, the IRS employee who issued the summons may seek to enforce it in court.  If so, a judge could hold you in contempt of court, which means you could be fined and/or thrown in prison.

If you receive a summons, you should seriously consider hiring legal counsel to help you to respond and to protect your interests.