Sunday, May 19, 2013

Something at the IRS Doesn't "Add Up"

New defenses and distractions in the IRS scandal are going to come rolling out from the administration and its defenders like water off a duck's back.  

One ploy is evident in this sympathetic story from Friday's Washington Post seeking to portray the IRS Determinations Unit as a just a group of nice, non-partisan number-crunchers:

The [determinations] staff member [in Cincinnati], who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, said that the determinations unit is competent and without bias, that it grouped together conservative applications "for consistency's sake" — so one application did not sail through while a similar one was held up in review. This consistency is paramount in the review of all applications, according to Ronald Ran, an estate-tax lawyer who worked for 37 years in the IRS's Cincinnati office.

"You're not going to have a bunch of flaming liberals in the exempt-organizations department looking for conservative applications," he said.

But look what the anonymous staff member also said:

"We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. . . .That's why there are so many people here who are flustered.Everything comes from the top. We don't have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive."  (emphasis added)

Huh. Something doesn't quite "add up."  Why? Because on page 7 of the IG report, it states that in June of 2011, the Director of Exempt Organizations learned of the "inappropriate criterion" and directed that they be changed to "focus on the 'political, lobbying or [general] advocacy' activities of the organization." But then, the IG report, page 7, goes on to read that the team of specialists changed themback:

"However, the team of specialists subsequently changed the criteria in January 2012 without executive approval because they believed the July 2011 criteria were too broad.  The January 2012 criteria again focused on the policy position of organizations instead of tax-exempt laws and Treasury regulations." (emphasis added)

So we are supposed to believe that a team of determinations specialists "went rogue" to change criteria laid out at the direction of the Director of Exempt Organizations, despite the assertion that "everything comes from the top" and there's no "authority to make decisions without someone signing off on them"?  Interesting.

(Incidentally, sometimes it seems that the press generally doesn't have much respect for the intellect or memory of Americans; is anyone at "This Week" aware of the irony of having Charles Rangel on as a panelist to opine on abuse of the tax system?)