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Workers Say: IRS Targeting ‘Came From The Top’

From the Washington Post:

At Cincinnati IRS office, surprise over claims of partisan villainy

By Lisa Rein and Dan Zak | May 17, 2013

CINCINNATI — … People in this Cincinnati unit have been accused of using “inappropriate” and “politically sensitive” criteria to scrutinize conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status.

People in the unit, in a purple state’s red-leaning nook [sic], have singled out applicants whose names include the words “tea party” and “patriot.” …

As could be expected, the folks in the determinations unit on Main Street have had trouble concentrating this week. Number crunchers, whose work is nonpolitical, don’t necessarily enjoy the spotlight, especially when the media and the public assume they’re engaged in partisan villainy.

“We’re not political,’’ said one determinations staffer in khakis as he left work late Tuesday afternoon. “We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. . . . That’s why there are so many people here who are flustered. Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.”

But if these workers are so ‘apolitical,’ how come none of them spoke up during the almost three years that this went on? Especially, since this was constantly in the news because conservative groups were loudly complaining that they were being targeted. Where were the whistleblowers?

The staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job [sic], said that the determinations unit is competent and without bias, that it grouped together conservative applications “for consistency’s sake” — so one application did not sail through while a similar one was held up in review…

Well, you have to admit they were consistent. Not a single conservative group was given tax exemption for 27 months. And more than 500 conservative applications were held up, but no liberal groups ever were. That is consistency.

“You’re not going to have a bunch of flaming liberals in the exempt-organizations department looking for conservative applications,” he said…

Except, as we have previously noted, every worker at the IRS belongs to the ultra liberal vehemently anti-Tea Party National Treasury Employees Union, which controls even the minutia of who gets Blackberries at the IRS. And, also, as we have previously noted, IRS employees gave more than twice as much money to the Obama campaign than to Romney’s.

Bonnie Esrig… retired from the IRS in January after 38 years. She spent her final year and a half in the determinations unit as an area manager who oversaw a roster of determination groups, each with 10 to 15 specialists who vetted applications for ­tax-exemption…

And yet the IG’s report said only one person was handling conservative applications for 18 months. (As even the New York Times notes below.)

“I don’t think there was any malice or any kind of political” motive, she said. “I don’t believe that. . . . I just think there’s arrogant management that believed they were doing things correctly and didn’t really handle things as tactfully as they could have.”

You see? They just weren’t tactful. They were too obvious. They should have let a couple of the 500 applications go through.

This scandal developed, in part, because of a lack of bureaucratic “backbone,” said Marvin Friedlander, who worked in the ­exempt-organizations…

Really? It seems to us that it would take a lot of backbone to do something this egregious.

“No one took charge,” Friedlander said. “No one saw the implications and the sensitivity. . . . In a bureaucracy, nobody wants to rock the boat. We don’t really want to tell them to stop the salami from getting made."

So it would be ‘rocking the boat’ to object to targeting conservative groups? How telling.

Nationwide, about 900 of the IRS’s nearly 100,000 employees deal with tax-exempt organizations. Cincinnati’s determinations unit handled about 61,000 applications last year.

Again, the IG report said only one person handled the conservative applications.

In recent years, office culture in Cincinnati has been defined by constant reorganization to offset a voluminous workload… between 2009 and 2012, the annual number of 501(c)(4) aspirants nearly doubled, to 3,357. Many had a political tinge that complicated the determinations process…

You see? The IRS just needs more money and manpower. So they can do their job more discreetly. (That is, not get caught.)

From the New York Times:

Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Ohio


During the summer of 2010, the dozen or so accountants and tax agents of Group 7822 of the Internal Revenue Service office in Cincinnati got a directive from their manager. A growing number of organizations identifying themselves as part of the Tea Party had begun applying for tax exemptions, the manager said, advising the workers to be on the lookout for them and other groups planning to get involved in elections

It doesn’t sound like there was any confusion. They did what they were ordered to do.

For months, the Tea Party cases sat on the desk of a lone specialist, who used “political sounding” criteria — words like “patriots,” “we the people” — as a way to search efficiently through the flood of applications for groups that might not qualify for exemptions, according to the I.R.S. inspector general. “Triage,” the agency’s acting chief described it…

Even though we’re told the IRS’s tax exempt division has anywhere from 200 to 900 employees. (Depending on which newspaper you read.)

While there are still many gaps in the story of how the I.R.S. scandal happened, interviews with current and former employees and with lawyers who dealt with them, along with a review of I.R.S. documents, paint a more muddled picture of an understaffed Cincinnati outpost that was alienated from the broader I.R.S. culture and given little direction.

And never mind that everyone agrees that these orders came from above.

Overseen by a revolving cast of midlevel managers, stalled by miscommunication with I.R.S. lawyers and executives in Washington and confused about the rules they were enforcing, the Cincinnati specialists flagged virtually every application with Tea Party in its name. But their review went beyond conservative groups: more than 400 organizations came under scrutiny, including at least two dozen liberal-leaning ones and some that were seemingly apolitical…

Just note how artfully the New York Times lies. They claim some liberals "came under scrutiny," too. Even if that is true, and it probably isn’t, we are talking about a lot more than scrutiny here. 500 applications from conservative groups were help up for at least 27 months, and on average more than three years. That simply did not happen to any liberal groups.

Over three years, as the office struggled with a growing caseload of advocacy groups seeking tax exemptions, responsibility for the cases moved from one group of specialists to another, and the Determinations Unit, which handles all nonprofit applications, was reorganized. One batch of cases sat ignored for months. Few if any of the employees were experts on tax law, contributing to waves of questionnaires about groups’ political activity and donors that top officials acknowledge were improper…

Trying pleading ‘incompetence’ the next time you are audited, and see if the IRS waives any fines or penalties.

“I think that what happened here was that foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient in their workload selection,” Mr. Miller testified before a House committee Friday. While “intolerable,” he said, it “was not an act of partisanship.”

As a storm of criticism washes over what is — even in the best of times — the federal government’s most reviled agency, some of those in Cincinnati agreed…

As does the New York Times, of course.

Administering the nearly four-million-word federal tax code involves so many arcane legalities, and is so fraught with potential to ignite Washington’s partisan skirmishes or infuriate taxpayers, that much of the I.R.S. is run by lawyers.

But the Exempt Organizations Division — concentrated in Cincinnati with fewer than 200 workers, according to I.R.S. officials — is staffed mostly with accountants, clerks and civil servants. Working for one of only three I.R.S. divisions not charged with collecting tax revenue, specialists in the Determinations Unit in Cincinnati primarily review and process roughly 70,000 applications for exemptions each year, relatively few from groups engaged in election activity…

Again, notice that the numbers are different from the Washington Post’s. They just seem to make them up.

But, again, the message is that we have to give the IRS more money so they can hire even more employees.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, May 20th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

One Response to “Workers Say: IRS Targeting ‘Came From The Top’”

  1. GetBackJack says:

    Of course it does.

    The primary rule of any mafia is that “you” don’t take any action on your own until it is ordered by The Boss.

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