From the Right
By Alex Fries
The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, was first established in June of 1862 under President Lincoln and was know as the “Office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue.” Initially, the IRS was only intended to temporarily be responsible for collecting an income tax to pay for war expenses. Over the years, however, the control and collection of a highly complex system of various taxes has become the permanent responsibility of the Internal Revenue Service.
In recent years, top level IRS administrators and the department as a whole have come under fire especially for the systematic targeting of conservative groups out of the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. It is now clearer than ever that there has to be a review of the Internal Revenue Service’s structure and operating procedures in order to provide transparency and prevent unjust treatment of any individual or group, regardless of political affiliation, from ever happening again.
Documents obtained by Judicial Watch (a nonpartisan watch group) after they had filed several requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act, clearly outline a systematic targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, the documents reveal the agency’s inability and disregard to report said targeting even after top IRS officials were given details about these activities. A more exact look at the timeline as laid out by these obtained documents, the findings of Congressional hearings, and the IRS inspector generals audits shed light on the magnitude of the scandal.
In April 2010, then-Director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service Lois Lerner received a “Sensitive Case Report” outlining the targeting of Tea Party groups. In June and July of 2011, Lerner was briefed that employees had and were using terms such as “tea party, patriots, 9/12 Project, government spending, government debt, taxes” and “make America a better place to live” to flag applications. After learning of these search terms, Lerner then advised the Cincinnati office of the IRS to revise said terms. The guidelines were then expanded to include terms such as “organizations involved with political, lobbying, or advocacy for exemption under 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4).” In addition, in June of 2011 Lois Lerners hard drive crashed allegedly erasing all emails sent or received by Lerner between January 2009 and April 2011.
What followed was a systematic cover-up and denial of any activity remotely related to targeting by Lerner and Doug Shulman, the IRS commissioner when the targeting program got underway, to government officials and House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee staffers in December of 2011, in addition to the Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa in March 2012.
After the scandal broke in May 2013, both Lois Lerner and Steve Miller, the IRS commissioner after Shulman (who had to leave due to term limits), left the IRS.
A letter was written to the current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental affairs. On Feb. 10, Sen. Johnson informed the commissioner that the committee was “conducting oversight” over the agency. Also in the letter the Senator expressed that it was his understanding that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration had recovered an estimated 80,000 emails from disaster recovery tapes, 16,000 of which were estimated to be unique emails, previously not presented to congressional committees. Meanwhile it has become apparent that the true depth of the scandal still hasn’t been fully discovered, however, this systematic targeting, misguiding, and flat out lying to Congressional Oversight Committees by IRS officials and investigators have made it more than obvious that there has to be a systematic overhaul of not only the IRS agency structure, but also executive and congressional oversight.
Why do we have to concern ourselves with the emails of government officials embedded in offices far away from our college life? For one thing, it is our hard-earned money that is paying those taxes. Secondly, because it is neither right nor fair for government agencies whose duties call on them to impartially impart the (tax) law to give preferential treatment of any kind. Thirdly, these officials broke laws and oaths in order cover-up their misdeeds. Lastly, to quote Bill Archer, “We must care for each other more, and tax each other less.” In today’s world we may not be completely caring and we cannot live without taxes, but we can surely do it better.
Alex Fries is a sophomore athletic training major and is the president of the UNH College Republicans. Follow Alex on Twitter @AJFriesNH.