Friday, April 18, 2014

IRS needs an audit of its own after agency’s recent scandals

6/17/2013

The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t get its distasteful reputation from most of the public merely because it is the government’s official tax collector. It frequently also has a target on its back because it scrutinizes Americans’ individual, business and organizations’ tax returns. That scrutiny is welcome as long as it is applied uniformly to all taxpayers meeting the specific criteria — such as all of those seeking a tax-exempt status. What doesn’t work well however is, if and when, specific organizations are singled out not only for scrutiny because of their ideology or political persuasion. Such appears to be the case with what the IRS did to organizations with a Tea Party affiliation seeking tax-exempt status.

What worsened the situation for the IRS is that the agency allegedly shared confidential information with other partisan organizations. The IRS is being held accountable, however, a lot of damage has been done to its credibility. The IRS seemingly lost its moral compass and instead targeted groups that had fallen out of favor with the executive branch of government. Though it remains unclear who specifically directed the scrutiny, it is clear that what goes around inevitably will come back around on the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t get its distasteful reputation from most of the public merely because it is the government’s official tax collector. It frequently also has a target on its back because it scrutinizes Americans’ individual, business and organizations’ tax returns. That scrutiny is welcome as long as it is applied uniformly to all taxpayers meeting the specific criteria — such as all of those seeking a tax-exempt status. What doesn’t work well however is, if and when, specific organizations are singled out not only for scrutiny because of their ideology or political persuasion. Such appears to be the case with what the IRS did to organizations with a Tea Party affiliation seeking tax-exempt status.

What worsened the situation for the IRS is that the agency allegedly shared confidential information with other partisan organizations. The IRS is being held accountable, however, a lot of damage has been done to its credibility. The IRS seemingly lost its moral compass and instead targeted groups that had fallen out of favor with the executive branch of government. Though it remains unclear who specifically directed the scrutiny, it is clear that what goes around inevitably will come back around on the IRS.

Overspending by the IRS on lavish conferences, no doubt, will make it difficult for the IRS to receive an increased budget allocation this year to aid the implementation and more complex taxing for new health care laws. Though President Obama proposed adding nearly 2,000 employees and $440 million to the IRS to enact the new health care plan and its myriad of tax challenges, recent missteps might and should jeopardize funding. It is difficult to increase funding for an organization that appears to be running amok.

Though new leadership is in place at the IRS, it will prove difficult to fix the figuratively sinking ship very quickly. The IRS needs an audit and remedy of its own operation before it can do much oversight of others. The IRS can’t suitably evaluate its own performance so an independent examination is essential. Rebuilding taxpayer trust through responsible, uniform and even-handed execution of the IRS’s mission should be at the top of the organization’s to-do list. Anything outside that realm should be out of bounds since that’s what got the much-hated agency into trouble in the first place.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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