Miller and Lerner Received Credible Threats

There are many reasons why you should never threaten an IRS worker besides the fact that it is just not nice.  You could be blacklisted by the IRS or placed on their Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer (PDT) list.  Or, if the threat is serious enough, you could be prosecuted for an “attempt” crime like the Alaskan, Lonnie Vernon, who was recently sentenced to over 25 years imprisonment for conspiracy to kill an IRS Revenue Officer.

The IRS is abundantly aware of the risk involved in collecting taxes, especially when enforced collection actions, such as bank levies and wage garnishments, are employed.  IRS personnel have protocol for handling potentially dangerous situations and there are procedures (many carried out by TIGTA) in place to help protect IRS employees who have to work in these conditions.  Most often, the IRS employees who are subject to threats and dangerous situations are the Revenue Officers who work on the front lines and have direct personal contact with taxpayers.  However, we are currently hearing about threats directed at high-level IRS officials based on their supposed responsibility for the shortcomings associated with the IRS scandal.

Both Steven Miller (former acting IRS Commissioner who was fired by President Obama on May 15th) and Lois Lerner (head of the IRS tax exempt unit who has placed the blame on folks in Cincinnati) have been intimidated by threats of physical violence according to their attorneys and others who are close to them.  This is not normal.  Even the person holding the top job at the IRS, the Commissioner, typically has required very little by way of security over the years.  Maybe this will have to change.

Caution Upon Contact

I have written before about the Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer (PDT) designation that can be given to those who are stupid enough to harm or threaten IRS employees.  A recent audit done by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) finds that IRS employees have been well trained in the criteria and procedures having to do with PDT, but are not as familiar with the less grievous CAU (Caution Upon Contact) designation.

Your tax account will be coded PDT if you harm, threaten, or intimidate IRS employees with specific acts, or if you affiliate with groups that advocate such actions.  You can also be labeled PDT if you have demonstrated a clear propensity towards acts of violence in the previous 5 years.  The CAU designation is just one step below this and includes any “threat of physical harm that is less severe or immediate than necessary to satisfy PDT criteria” — a catch all for taxpayers who are really, really annoying, but not obviously dangerous.

These designations are important because they dictate how IRS personnel are to approach (or not approach) certain taxpayers, and they dictate what kinds of “back up” they are entitled to during field visits.  According to the TIGTA report, failure to report (and accurately designate) dangerous or threatening taxpayers creates an undue risk for other IRS employees who may have future interactions with them.

Can PDT or CAU taxpayers be forgiven of their bad behavior?  Yes, after 5 years.  But the 5-year period begins afresh if any of the following occur:

  • additional PDT/CAU referral
  • IRS employee physically assaulted
  • taxpayer arrested for threats or actual violence towards IRS employee
  • “current IRS activity” on their account

This final criterion is interesting.  The report indicates that examples of “current IRS activity” are an audit or a balance due.  In other words, somebody who threatens an IRS employee and then doesn’t pay off his tax debt within 5 years must endure the ugly label of PDT/CAU for a minimum of 10 years.  Remember, you don’t have to like the person who issued a tax levy against you, just be civil!