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Watchdog: Accountability

Examiner Editorial: Bad actors and deadbeats at IRS get holidays and cash bonuses

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Opinion,Editorial,Tea Party,IRS,Accountability,John Koskinen,Washington Examiner,Scandals

A culture of impunity has taken hold at the IRS, one that should outrage taxpayers who fork over their hard-earned money every year knowing that if they don't the agency will make their lives miserable.

It would be bad enough if the IRS were only still trying to put itself in the role of regulating First Amendment freedom of speech and association after being caught illegally targeting conservative, Tea Party and evangelical non-profit groups seeking tax exemptions during the 2010 and 2012 elections. But, as the Treasury Department's inspector general has found, agency leaders also gave IRS employees special treatment at the same time they were using its power to influence the political process. According to the March 21 report, more than 2,800 IRS employees with "conduct issues" received upwards of $2.8 million in monetary awards, more than 27,000 hours in time-off awards and 175 quality step -- or pay grade -- increases between 2010 and 2012. That figure includes more than 1,100 employees who had either paid their taxes late or not at all; they received $1,068,912 in cash bonuses and 10,582 hours in time-off awards. IRS officials said the agency does not consider conduct issues when giving out awards other than a permanent pay increase, and the report said any misconduct resulted in "written reprimands, suspensions and removal."

More than 2,800 IRS employees with 'conduct issues' received upwards of $2.8 million in monetary awards.

It would be nice to know IRS employees were treated the same as other citizens when they misbehave or don't pay their taxes, but the evidence suggests otherwise -- just as the evidence suggests that IRS officials inappropriately threw more obstacles in the path of conservatives and libertarians trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.

What do IRS leaders say about these failings? When questioned in March by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the Tea Party targeting scandal, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen not only casually suggested it would take years to produce all the documents needed for an investigation, he dared the committee to hold him in contempt, suggesting that they could not do so. Keep in mind that Koskinen, a former Freddie Mac executive who took over the IRS in December, was the person chosen to fix the agency after its years of misconduct were revealed.

Meanwhile, another federal investigation found that employees of the Dallas IRS office were openly displaying their support for President Obama at work during the 2012 election cycle, an apparent violation of the Hatch Act. Taxpayers who didn't share those views would have been justified in wondering if they would get due process in any dispute with the agency.

This culture of impunity cannot continue. The IRS exists for one reason only: To collect taxes efficiently and impartially. There's no room for political bias or machinations in the process. Ideally, the IRS will fix itself and begin to act professionally. But if it can't, Congress should consider replacing it with a new agency free of cronyism and partisanship.

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