IRS Under Siege


So far this week, a federal watchdog office has blasted how the Internal Revenue Service dealt with conservative groups, the president and members of Congress are on a continual loop on cable news programs criticizing the agency, the Justice Department is looking into whether the IRS broke any criminal laws and the agency's acting chief has been fired.

Wait. There's more.

On Friday, May 24, the House tax-writing committee will air its concerns about the IRS' targeting of applications for tax-exempt status by Tea Party and other conservative organizations. The Senate Committee on Finance will take its shots at the IRS next week.

Even for the federal agency that everyone loves to hate, it's starting to look like it's piling on.

Of course, the IRS has brought a lot of this attention upon itself.

As the highly anticipated Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report notes, the agency made major mistakes in dealing with its employees who were tasked with reviewing whether organizations earned the 501(c)(4) designation for their, per tax rules, primarily social welfare, not political, efforts.

Out with the (acting) commissioner

Steven Miller had been serving as acting IRS commissioner since November 2012 when Commissioner Douglas Shulman's four-and-a-half-year term ended.

Was Miller a scapegoat? Sure.

Miller has not been directly connected with the bungled processing from 2010 to 2012 of tax-exemption applications. But during that time, Miller was Shulman's second in command.

And since President Barack Obama couldn't do anything to the already departed commissioner, the guy who took over temporarily was the next best thing in the line of accountability fire.

Now we're left to wonder who else at the IRS will go, either voluntarily or under pressure.

Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations in the agency's Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, brought the matter to public attention May 10 when apologized for the overzealous actions of what she termed "low-level" employees in the IRS Cincinnati office.

Should Lerner, whose department is responsible for the applications, be polishing her resume about now? Probably.

Parting remarks

Although Miller is out, in fine Washington, D.C., fashion he didn't have to immediately pack up his office. Miller emailed IRS employees that he would remain at his desk through early June, focusing on "an orderly transition" to the next IRS chief.

Part of that transition will be testifying before the Ways and Means committee.

Following the sacking of Miller, committee chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., issued a statement that reconfirming the hearing and Miller's expected appearance.

"The committee and the American people deserve honest answers from Mr. Miller at our hearing this Friday," said Camp.

And based on Camp's statement, Miller should be prepared for tough questions.

"This resignation does nothing to change the culture of discrimination at the IRS," said Camp. "There are still far too many unanswered questions and until we know what truly happened, we cannot fully fix what is wrong."

Buckle up. It looks like it's going to be a long and bumpy summer for the IRS.