MAY 17, 2013
The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) witch hunt of conservative groups similar to Judicial Watch is indeed atrocious, but it’s hardly the first scandal to rock the beleaguered tax agency in the last few years.
This particular crisis exploded after an investigation by the Treasury Inspector General revealed what many conservative groups have known and alleged for years; that the IRS is used by the administration as a political tool to go after its enemies. Though illegal this was rampant at the highest levels of the agency, as the inspector general’s scorching report indicates.
The IRS singles out groups with conservative-sounding phrases such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status, the IG says. The probe determined that for more than 18 months the IRS “used inappropriate criteria” that singled out conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status. This has ignited outrage among lawmakers—both Democrat and Republican—as well as President Obama who called it “intolerable and inexcusable.”
At a congressional hearing this week, IRS chief Steven Miller apologized for the way his agency has treated conservative groups but he had the audacity to say that partisanship did not serve as a motivation. Rather he attributed his agency’s actions to “foolish mistakes” made by employees attempting to be “more efficient in their workload selection.” He must think Americans are really dumb.
“Partisanship or the perception of politics has no place in the IRS,” Miller assured members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is investigating the scandal. If that’s true, then it’s just a big coincidence that liberal groups aren’t targeted by the agency. In fact, liberal groups are spared scrutiny and one news report reveals that a foundation operated by President Obama’s half-brother got fast-tracked to become tax-exempt.
This appears to be the icing on the cake for an agency that’s made plenty of headlines over the years for its transgressions. One of the things the IRS is well known for is giving incarcerated criminals who prepare fraudulent returns tens of millions of dollars in refunds they’re not entitled to. The figure increases annually and at last count the IRS doled out north of $35 million to criminals, according to a federal audit.
A few years ago the IRS came under fire for allowing 1 million foreigners—many in the U.S. illegally— to improperly claim close to $9 billion in tax credits even though they did not provide valid Social Security numbers on their return. Not long after that, the tax agency got in trouble for handing out $33 million in bogus electric car credits.
Just last month, on the heels of “Tax Day,” two dozen IRS employees got charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government benefits, including food stamps, welfare and housing vouchers. The scheme fleeced U.S. taxpayers out of at least a quarter of a million dollars, according to federal prosecutors.
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