September 23, 1997

September 23, 1997 | Testimony on Taxes

A Summary of the Third Day's Proceedings

The third and final phase of the Senate Finance Committee hearings on IRS abuses featured testimony from six current IRS employees who testified anonymously about the ill treatment of taxpayers they have seen firsthand from within the Service. The Committee also heard from the Acting Commissioner of the IRS and the Director of Tax Policy at the General Accounting Office. Perhaps this final stage was as telling for its procedure as for its content. The IRS employees spoke to the committee from behind screens with their voices electronically altered to hide their true identities. I wonder how far our we have gone astray when employees of the United States government are forced to testify on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution from their superiors at the IRS.

One of the IRS employees summarized the reason for the public's general discontent with the current management and procedures of the IRS. He explained that "abuse of the taxpaying public occurs when the IRS improperly, and sometimes illegally, uses its vast power in the process of implementing some type of enforcement of the tax laws. Enforcement is the levy of a paycheck or bank account, the seizure of a car, or home, or business. It can also result in the forced liquidation of a taxpayer's life savings, IRA, or retirement account."

This perhaps encapsulates the public's general mistrust of the Internal Revenue Service. These hearings have given the American people an insight into the inner workings of one of the most powerful and secretive of all federal agencies. They have likewise issued those of us in Congress a mandate to return the IRS to its original mission of accountability and service to the American taxpayer.

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