It is normal for the IRS to be all over the news in April, but this year, heading into the last week of May, they remain the talk of the nation. As you probably know, at the heart of the controversy is the IRS’ unfair targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Many top-level Internal Revenue Service officials are coming under fire for either failing to detect the practice earlier or for failing to timely report it to Congress. Former IRS Commissioner, Doug Shulman, has said he didn’t know for sure what was going on. Steven Miller, the man that replaced him, has also denied any wrongdoing, before being fired by President Obama last week.
Today Lois Lerner was called to testify before Congress but, following the advice of her attorney, plead the 5th and refused to testify. Lerner is the individual considered to be directly in charge of the branch in Cincinnati that was running afoul of IRS procedures.
I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any congressional committee.
Because I am asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I have done something wrong. I have not.
~ Lois Lerner, speaking before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
J. Russell George, the head of TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) is also a target, and I think rightly so. It has always bothered me that TIGTA’s audits, probes, and reports seem to be rather pointless, leaving it up to the IRS to agree or disagree with TIGTA recommendations. If there was some kind of cover up, people are going to wonder about TIGTA’s involvement.
The next step appears to be appointment of a special prosecutor, which, in the eye of the public, may elevate things to the level of the Bill Clinton scandal and Watergate. I don’t recall the last time the IRS was in the spotlight like this, much less involving something that could be called a “scandal.” From the looks of it, it will be a while before they can go back to the processing of amended tax returns, and the bean counting, and whatever else they usually do this time of year.