Abuse of Americans by the Internal Revenue Service is nothing new. As Gary Klott wrote in the New York Times in 1987, the federal agency was basing promotions on how much money its agents had seized. An IRS office in Los Angeles bore a sign reading “Seizure Fever—Catch it!” and those who seized the most were rewarded with leave time. This was contrary to IRS policy, but it carried on at a high rate. Senator David Pryor held hearings on a “taxpayers bill of rights” and said that “the American taxpayer should not be required to pay the price for IRS mistakes and improper actions.” More than two decades later the mistakes and improper actions continue, on a wider scale.
As we have noted, in 2013 the IRS gave out between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion in improper payments. The year before, the IRS sent out more than $3 billion in fraudulent tax refunds to people using stolen identities. Between October 1, 2010 and the end of 2012, the IRS handed out more than $2.8 million in bonuses to 2,800 employees, many under disciplinary action. Former IRS boss Steven Miller claimed the IRS had been guilty of “horrible customer service.” Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS manager heading the division that provided the horrible service, was not punished but promoted to head the IRS division working with Obamacare, not the only case of mission creep with the agency.
Considerable evidence exists that the IRS has been targeting groups that advance the cause of lower taxes and smaller government. That kind of targeting is likely the “great work done in very trying circumstances,” that new IRS boss John Koskinen had in mind when he announced bonuses of $62.5 million. Now, as Dan Friedman noted in the New York Daily News, Koskinen is claiming that a 2011 computer crash “may have permanently erased emails from Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS office accused of improperly holding up applications by conservative groups seeking tax exempt status.”
Koskinen recently told the House Ways and Means Committee, “I don’t think an apology is owed.” Six investigations have been unable to come up with the information they need, but Koskinen said a special prosecutor would be a “monumental waste of taxpayer funds.” Taxpayers should take this as a confession that the IRS is essentially unreformable.