September 23, 1997 | Testimony on Taxes
In opening the hearings, the chairman of the Senate Finance
Committee, Sen. William Roth (R., DE) stated that it is necessary
for the IRS to get back to its mission statement which reads:
"The purpose of the Internal Revenue Service is to collect the proper amount of tax revenue at the least cost; serve the public by continually improving the quality of our products and services; and perform in a manner warranting the highest degree of public confidence in our integrity, efficiency and fairness."
Highlights from the first part of these hearings on the IRS demonstrate that there is much work to be done to get the IRS back to its own mission statement. Representatives from the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants testified that one of the root causes of the decline of the public's confidence in the IRS is the service's "siege mentality." They quoted from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the IRS who claimed that the IRS "was a law enforcement agency at heart" and as such was "protected from improper external influence on how it does its job." Representatives of the New York CPAs claimed that the IRS must change its perception of itself as a law enforcement agency if they are to have any success in changing the IRS' siege mentality.
Early testimony in these hearings has also made public the IRS' extraordinary power over the property of America's taxpayers. Mr. Robert Schriebman, a prominent tax professor and accountant and author of several books on the audit and collection practices of the IRS, testified about the enormous scope of the service's enforcement power. Specifically, he detailed that the IRS has the power to:
Take a taxpayer's home on nothing more than the signature of the District Director alone. There is no court hearing, no notice, and no opportunity to litigate the merits of the IRS' claim.
Close down a business and take away a taxpayer's livelihood by merely filing a few papers in federal court. The judge simply signs the seizure order. The taxpayer gets absolutely no notice or opportunity to contest the legality of the assessment or the amount the IRS claims is owed.
Mr. Schriebman concluded that these seizure procedures violate the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. He also testified that the IRS perpetuates these unjust and unconstitutional tactics. His experience has led him to conclude that Revenue Officers are being pushed by their superiors to undertake more seizures in order to achieve promotions within the system.
Initial testimony has exposed the mysterious culture of the IRS. Ms. Shelley Davis, who was the official historian of the IRS for seven years, testified that the IRS is singular among government agencies in its lack of a paper trail. The normal routine at the IRS includes throwing away or shredding all documents whenever a program is completed. She concluded that this climate of secrecy not only made her job as an historian virtually impossible, it also guaranteed that the IRS could never be held accountable for its actions.
The next phase of these hearings will feature testimony from individual taxpayers who have been hassled, threatened, and coerced by the IRS to pay taxes they did not owe to those who were forced to pay fines, pay fines that were assessed without any basis in fact or law, and those who had their paychecks garnished, their assets seized, and lives destroyed by the Internal Revenue Service to satisfy unjustified tax claims. I will provide highlights of the second phase of these hearings on my web site tomorrow.