Mark J. Fitzgibbons:
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen made a disturbing statement before Congress that the IRS follows the law “whenever we can.”
As Thomas Lifson wrote, “The law, to Koskinen, evidently is a suggestion, not an ironclad requirement.” Actually, the situation is even worse than that.
Lernergate unveiled for the public a deeper, even more sinister problem at the IRS. The evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the Tax Exempt unit of the IRS, with its cover-up involving widespread destruction of evidence, is like one highlight reel of a bigger reality within the Service and government agencies generally.
The IRS, like other government agencies, is in fact is a perennial, institutional lawbreaker. Professor Paul Caron’s TaxProf Blog, for example, annually covers the report of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) about IRS lawbreaking in asset seizures.
In the review period through June 2012, the IRS violated the law 30 percent of the time in asset seizure matters, up from 22 percent the prior year. It was 38 percent the year before that.
These are stunning statistics made more disturbing by the lack of being cured. Property, right up there with life and liberty, is a fundamental right expressly identified in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. This raises the obvious questions: What is the level of lawbreaking at the IRS when the stakes are not so high, and what lawbreaking at the IRS does TIGTA not look for?
Both Congress and the courts, however, have contributed to the underlying lawlessness at the IRS in ways that most Americans find offensive — or would if they were to understand the abdication of power to the IRS.
The tax code is a behemoth loaded with goodies for special interests. It has become a social policy Christmas tree, and its complexities are not understood by IRS employees, never mind ordinary taxpayers. It is plagued and zealously guarded by powerful interests and lobbyists in Washington. The tax code is ripe for abuse.
Again covered by TaxProf Blog, in 2010 TIGTA reported that the IRS wasted billions in stimulus and procurement spending. This past year, and without due process, the IRS seized tax refunds of the adult children of taxpayers who had been overpaid federal benefits decades ago. The IRS was recently caught opening emails without warrants.
The buck never really stops with our elected officials, who later seem surprised that these abuses are the result of power and discretion given to the IRS by Congress.