September 25, 1997

September 25, 1997 | Testimony on Taxes

Prepared Statement of Witness 6 before the Senate Finance Committee Oversight Hearing of the Internal Revenue Service

Mr. Chairman, Honorable Members of this Committee, I work in the Inspection Division of the IRS which investigates employee misconduct and responds to and investigates threats and assaults perpetrated against IRS employees. I am appearing here in front of you at great personal risk to my career with the IRS. I have seen too many times how swift and severe the IRS can be in retaliating against those who do not conform and agree with its own corporate mentality and attitude. I have seen how the IRS management attempts to kill the messenger, but ignores the message. I do not appear here today to try and hurt this Agency or the majority of dedicated career government workers who staff the offices, but I have seen the efforts by the IRS to try and heal itself. The result is but dismal window dressing to appease you in Congress while they continue with business as usual. The IRS and the public need and deserve a strong, independent, fully staffed and fully funded Inspection Division, able to carry out its investigations without interference, subtle or otherwise, from within. I do not see how this is possible given the IRS' current climate.

In the IRS' nationwide all-manager training in the late 80's, one of the messages delivered was that it is permissible to lie or mislead the public and/or IRS employees as long as it accomplishes the goals and mission of the Agency. This information was relayed to me by a former IRS manager who attended this training session and could not believe that the IRS was instructing its managers to do so. He questioned this policy. Coincidently, his position was later eliminated.

A 1992 Inspection Division re-organization memo addressed Regional management structure and other issues regarding the Inspection Division having at least 1 to 2 excessive levels of management. The Inspection Executive Committee voted to retain that same management structure. Coincidently, the Inspection Executive Committee is composed of the same people occupying the very positions that were identified as excessive.

Criminal investigations cannot be worked with the same auditor mentality and goals as audits are conducted. In criminal investigations, leads generally dictate where and how long the investigation and case go on. Applying an artificial time limit to cases severely stifles the creativity and progress of an investigation, and sends the wrong message to the investigator to get the cases closed ASAP. The attitude is "big cases, big problems; little cases, little problems!" Quantity not quality is the message. According to Special Agents in the Criminal Investigation Division, (CID) emphasizes opening the traditional tax cases, the "More and Pop" cases, which are easy "hits" and can be opened and closed quickly to bolster CID's average and numbers, rather than investing time in the large cases which take longer and require more resources. Big cases are often put off or overlooked in deference to the small, quick ones.

Mr. Chairman, it has been my observation and experience that taxpayers are treated as being "guilty until proven innocent." Based on my experience, this attitude coupled with an arrogant and indifferent manner in which citizens are sometimes treated, directly contributes to, and in some instances instigates many of the threats, assaults, resistance to and lack of cooperation experienced by IRS employees when dealing with the public. If police officers displayed this same attitude when interacting with the public, they would be fired! Why is this attitude tolerated and encouraged by the IRS?

The Inspection Division's budget is directly controlled by the IRS.

Therefore, by depleting or denying budget dollars, subtle limits and boundaries are placed on who and what is investigated, as well as what resources we get.

We are dependent upon the very people and Agency we investigate for our budget resources, and every year have to go hat in hand to get money. Field Agents feel that there is too close a relationship and that we are too cozy with IRS Management to impartially and effectively investigate internal IRS matters without interference or pressure. Investigations into allegations of misconduct by IRS Management are generally not opened. Only by detaching the Inspection Division's Criminal Investigative Function from the Internal Audit Division and then moving our function under the Department of the Treasury's Office of Inspector General, or under the office of the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement, or permanently fencing our budget, will this pattern be broken. Every other federal law enforcement agency is hiring and expanding, why is Inspection the only federal law enforcement agency that is closing field offices and downsizing and proposing RIF's? A recent Chief Inspector memorandum reports that FY98 budget funds 1214 Full Time Equivalents, (FTE) yet we are still planning to close offices and do a RIF to get down to 1150 full time employees. The IRS is also in contempt of Congress for only reducing field positions and closing field IRS offices and not reducing its Management structure. The current restructuring eliminates field investigator positions only. Only one Inspection Management position has been slated for elimination. There was a jockeying and gerrymandering of the span of control in order to retain every Inspection Management position, at the sacrifice and expense of field investigator positions.

I have observed little or no accountability for misconduct, mistakes and/or errors, whether innocent or intentional, and seldom -- if ever -- does the IRS or the responsible employee ever apologize to the taxpayer for the errors committed by the IRS. Again, this displays an attitude of indifference or arrogance to the public it serves, During my experience with the IRS I have observed a real lack of "meet and greet" qualities and people skills among IRS employees, as well as an arrogant attitude which originated with, and is perpetuated by, IRS Management down to the field level employees. Most of the complaints from taxpayers regarding abuse or misconduct on the part of the IRS employees do not rise to the level of criminality or egregiousness, the level at which my section would get involved. Such cases do not usually reach us and are thus handled by the Management of the involved employee. Union agreements and concessions by the IRS, create difficulty in disciplining employees beyond much more than a reprimand and slap on the wrist. This, too, must be strengthened to have any deterrent effect. Mr. Chairman, allow me to thank you for inviting me to testify before you today. As employees we are the "IRS," and unless you get views and input from the field and do not rely entirely on the views from 1111 Constitution Avenue, you will not get a true picture of what needs to be changed. I am grateful that you sought out the feelings and experience of the street level agents for the Committee. As I stated earlier, it is not my intent to hurt the IRS in any way. It is my sincere hope that by informing you of some of the problems I have had the opportunity to personally observe from within the IRS, you and your Committee will provide the Agency with necessary help and motivation to correct them.

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