September 25, 1997

September 25, 1997 | Testimony on Taxes

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

Mr. Chairman and respective members of the Senate Finance Committee, it is a pleasure to be able to address you here today. I have been a law enforcement officer for approximately twenty years. Currently, I am a criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service's Internal Security Division.

IRS' Internal Security Division has a multi-functional purpose. In the broad sense, we have a mission similar to that of a Federal Inspector General or internal affairs in a police department, along with some additional duties. Among our main responsibilities are conducting investigations into allegations of IRS employee misconduct, outside attempts to corrupt the administration of internal revenue laws, and employee safety.

I am here to speak about some of the problems I have observed in performing my work for the Internal Security Division. By the nature of our mission, it is imperative that we be unencumbered in opening and investigating violations of law within the scope of our office.

However, the culture and climate of the Internal Revenue Service often prevents Internal Security from fulfilling our responsibilities. In addition, the distrustful and secretive nature often hinders an investigation.

A lack of independence from District and regional forces intent on not tarnishing the IRS' image has reduced administrative sanctions against employees to a point where they have no effect in controlling employee misconduct. IRS does not want bad press on employee misconduct at a time when the Agency's public image is at a low point. This has affected who we investigate and what happens after an investigation has been completed.

Allegations against Internal Revenue Service managers and National Treasury Employee Union (NTEU) officials have not been investigated. The IRS is aware of the administration's favorable view of unions. NTEU greatly benefits from this. High level Internal Security officials do not want to take on a case involving the union or union officials.

Allegations against IRS managers, including Criminal Investigation Division managers are only worked when an allegation is serious and Internal Security management can not find a way out of assigning the case (ie: too many people are aware of an allegation). Some Internal Security managers believe that there is a bond between all IRS managers that should be maintained in the name of working relations.

There have been violations concerning the taxpayer's Attorney/Client privilege. IRS management often knows of these violations for months before reporting them to Internal Security. These types of cases can involve compromises in privileged communications.

Investigations into serious allegations are shortened by nature of a 180 day baseline. Six months is insufficient time to conduct a complex investigation, especially when new allegations are developed during the investigation. After 180 days the investigator and the immediate manager start to feel pressure on closing the case. This is where the IRS "bean counter" mentality hurts us. An employee case is considered an "actionable" case. This means proven or not, opening the case earns the agent credit for what we call a "stat." A case not involving an employee only gets a "stat" if there is judicial action. In other words, hypothetically, a case involving an armed militia is of less credit for the Inspection Division than a case involving the misuse of a government car by an IRS employee. Management feels that since a "stat" is obtained just by opening any employee case, there is no justification to have any case older than 180 days. Proven violations of criminal misconduct against an employee have been "whitewashed" by Internal Revenue Service managers and labor relations. Serious violations such as browsing, unauthorized access to taxpayer's records, and unauthorized release of taxpayer's information have received nothing more than counseling letters. These letters are then removed from the employee's personnel file after one year. This kind of action does not serve as a deterrent for misconduct.

The IRS can, and does, investigate its own employees when it is suspected that an employee has acted improperly or illegally. However, Internal Security management has inappropriately notified and kept IRS District management officials abreast of these investigations. Such investigations are supposed to be kept confidential. However, more often than not, if these investigations target employees who are friends of management, they will be informed of the probe in time to quit the agency before adverse personnel action can be initiated against them. Once an IRS employee resigns, it is rare that the U.S. Attorney will accept that case for prosection.

At the same time there is outside interference on Internal Security's mission, there are internal pressures that corrupt our ethical standards and place morale at low levels.

Internal Security managers exhibit arrogance while they themselves violate laws and commit prohibited personnel practices. Investigators have been told by Internal Security managers to record the conversations of other IRS employees without the Attorney General's approval. In other words, we have been directed to make non-consensual recordings of other IRS employees without fulfilling Justice Department requirements.

Investigators are often not able to share taxpayer information on multi-agency investigations, yet Internal Security managers have "unofficially" provided taxpayer information to managers at other agencies.

IRS Internal Security managers are notorious for committing prohibited personnel practices. After an employee litigates, settles out of court or obtains a favorable Merit Systems Protection Board ruling (MSPB), the Agency takes the corrective action without consequence to the offending manager. In other words, a manager violates an employee's rights. The employee seeks and obtains redress from the Agency, but the manager is never sanctioned for violating the employee's rights in the first place.

Internal Security managers are aware of how difficult it is for an employee to litigate against the Agency. After all, the Agency does not have to pay for legal representation. If a manager does not like an employee for personal reasons, there is nothing to stop the manger from violating the employee's rights. This is a "us" vs. "them" mentality that is more flagrant at this Agency than I've ever seen anywhere else.

The "corporate culture" at 1111 Constitution Avenue is not conducive towards independent, well worked criminal investigations. In general, IRS pushes employees to open and close a tax or collection matter as quickly as they can. Often getting the proper tax is secondary to reducing overall case load as quickly as possible.

For Internal Security this "bean counter" mentality means numbers, numbers, numbers! "Cases open, cases closed - let's count them up so we can report at the end of the year what a good job we've done!" Quality, where is that found in an accountant's book? In a way, this has created an atmosphere that has given us many of our employee misconduct cases. However, criminal law does not afford us the opportunity to work an investigation in the same manner. As long as Internal Security is part of the IRS, there can be no real oversight or independence; we are just part of a greater problem.

Over my 20 years of service, I have become painfully aware of the ability of the IRS to retaliate against employees who dare to speak out. Many of the witnesses you will have before you in this heating could be retaliated against for their testimony before this Committee. At times, I have been assigned an employee case and been told that management does not like that employee, and I have been told that I need to find something that they can use to terminate their employment. In the IRS, retaliation is swift and severe. I hope you will respect the risk that these witnesses took to appear before you, and protect them from any act of revenge by IRS management.

I came here, today, not to harm this Agency, but to help it heal. You must decide the best method to accomplish that goal. The IRS cannot heal itself, so others and I have taken the chance that you are serious about changing and improving my Agency. I thank you for the opportunity to participate in that healing process.

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