September 23, 1997 | Testimony on Taxes
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.