Thursday, July 18, 2024

Cassidy, others call for investigation into IRS agent conduct

by BIZ Magazine

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Senate Finance Committee Republicans are calling on the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to conduct an investigation on numerous serious reports of Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) employee misconduct. The request follows reports from multiple, diverse outlets that raise serious questions and concerns about the IRS adherence to the letter and spirit of taxpayer rights—standards which IRS Commissioner Werfel has previously pledged to uphold.

The senators request information on several news reports to help better understand these allegations.

“As Commissioner of the IRS, you pledged an oath to uphold the Constitution and become personally responsible to ‘ensure’ that all IRS employees ‘act in accord’ with each of the statutory taxpayer rights, including the right to a fair and just tax system. We are concerned that these serious allegations, which have occurred in a short period of time and represent a diverse array of taxpayers, could show a pattern of heavy-handed IRS misconduct,” wrote the senators.

In a separate letter to TIGTA, the senators request an investigation into one specific alleged incident of IRS misconduct and taxpayer intimidation, highlighting the statutory responsibility of TIGTA to supervise the operations of the IRS, including its criminal functions and employees.

“Americans have a right to know whether the serious allegations described above are being investigated. We urge TIGTA to open an investigation immediately and further ask TIGTA to be prepared to provide Members of the Finance Committee with regularly scheduled updates and briefings on the progress of your investigation,” continued the senators.

Read the full letter to the IRS here, and the full letter to TIGTA here.

Dear Commissioner Werfel,

You have assured members of Congress, including several of the undersigned personally, that you would ensure the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) acts in strict compliance with the letter and spirit of taxpayer’s rights, noting that “true north” for the IRS is to administer the tax laws in a way that is just, fair, and equitable. You have unequivocally committed to focusing on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights “every day.”

However, reports from multiple, diverse outlets have raised serious questions and concerns about the IRS’s adherence to the law. These reports include allegations of unannounced home and office visits by IRS agents, which were depicted as intimidating to the taxpayers in question:

On March 9, 2023, journalist Matt Taibbi received an unannounced home visit from an IRS agent on the same day he testified in front of the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

On April 25, 2023, a taxpayer in Marion, Ohio, received an unannounced home visit from an IRS Criminal Division agent identifying himself with the alias “Bill Haus.” The agent entered the taxpayer’s home under apparent pretenses, stating a desire to discuss one matter, before revealing he actually sought information about another. When this agent was asked to leave, he said he was entitled to enter homes because of his position at the IRS and made a statement about the extreme financial consequences of not complying with an IRS request.

On June 14, 2023, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen stated that 20 heavily armed IRS agents entered Highwood Creek Outfitters in Great Falls, Montana, and seized dozens of boxes of ATF Forms 4473, the background check form containing information on gun purchasers. Form 4473 is not a financial document and is of questionable relevance to the IRS.

As Commissioner of the IRS, you pledged an oath to uphold the Constitution and become personally responsible to “ensure” that all IRS employees “act in accord” with each of the statutory taxpayer rights, including the right to a fair and just tax system. We are concerned that these serious allegations, which have occurred in a short period of time and represent a diverse array of taxpayers, could show a pattern of heavy-handed IRS misconduct.

We understand your limitations under Internal Revenue Code section 6103 in discussing individual taxpayer circumstances in public and without authorization by the Finance Committee Chairman. However, information can be provided to the Committee that will help us better understand these allegations without speaking to any specific circumstance. We ask that you respond to the following requests and questions by no later than Friday, July 28, 2023.

Provide a full account of the events surrounding and leading up to each allegation above, including identifying who was involved, precipitating circumstances, and consequences or outcomes.
Provide all documents and communications related to or relied upon in forming such account.
Under what specific circumstances will an IRS employee use an alias in interacting with a taxpayer?
Aside from an undercover agent in the course of an ongoing undercover investigation, do you believe it is appropriate for any IRS employee to provide an alias to a taxpayer?
Under what specific circumstances will an IRS employee initiate contact with a taxpayer under pretenses other than the actual ones at issue?
Do you believe that these circumstances sufficiently respect a taxpayer’s right “to be informed?”
Under what specific circumstances will an IRS employee show up unannounced to a private residence or business?
Under what specific circumstances may an IRS employee be present in a private residence or business without permission of the owner(s)?
What mechanisms or procedures does the IRS have in place to approve and track any visit by its employees to a taxpayer’s home or business?
Do you believe these current mechanisms or procedures are sufficient and effective?
What mechanisms or procedures does the IRS have in place to allow taxpayers to raise concerns that actions taken by IRS employees were inappropriate or intimidating?
Do you believe these current mechanisms or procedures are sufficient and effective?
In the last three years to date, how many times has the IRS directly participated in a seizure of ATF Forms 4473?
In such instances, what does the IRS do with the information contained on a seized Form 4473 as well as the form itself?
What disciplinary actions have been taken in the instances mentioned herein? Please explain. If none, why not?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Dear Inspector General George:

We write to ask for an investigation into a new allegation involving the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Specifically, we request you investigate the circumstances described in a June 16, 2023, letter from Congressman Jim Jordan to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel. The letter describes in detail a series of direct and indirect encounters between a taxpayer in Ohio and IRS agent “Bill Haus,”1 who allegedly used an alias and gained entry to the taxpayer’s residence under false pretenses.

On April 25, 2023, a taxpayer in Marion, Ohio, allegedly received an unannounced home visit from an IRS Criminal Division agent identifying himself with the alias “Bill Haus.” Agent “Haus” accepted the taxpayer’s invitation to enter her home to discuss an estate tax matter, with respect to which the taxpayer was the executor. The agent later identified that he was in fact seeking to contact the taxpayer about a different matter, apparently using false pretenses to gain permission to enter the residence.

After making aggressive claims against the taxpayer, the agent was asked to leave, whereupon he said he was entitled to enter homes because of his position at the IRS. Agent “Haus” also made a statement to the taxpayer about the extreme financial consequences of not complying with an IRS request. After the initial disturbing encounter, the taxpayer continued to experience upsetting interactions with Agent “Haus,” despite his supervisor admitting to the taxpayer that she did not owe any tax and that “things never should have gotten this far.”

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has responsibility and authority under the Inspector General Act of 1978 to supervise the operations of the IRS, including its criminal functions and employees. Americans have a right to know whether the serious allegations described above are being investigated. We urge TIGTA to open an investigation immediately, and further ask TIGTA to be prepared to provide Members of the Finance Committee with regularly scheduled updates and briefings on the progress of your investigation.

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