Tag: Internal Revenue Service

Steal, Lie, then Steal Again

Earlier this year, I talked about an outrageous government swindle enabled by the Democrats. The IRS was withholding $75 million of people’s tax refunds based on decades-old Social Security overpayments to their parents. In the face of withering criticism, Social Security backed down.

Guess what?

The Social Security Administration, which announced in April that it would stop trying to collect debts from the children of people who were allegedly overpaid benefits decades ago, has continued to demand such payments and now defends that practice in court documents.

After The Washington Post reported in April that the Treasury Department had confiscated $75 million in tax refunds due to about 400,000 Americans whose ancestors owed money to Social Security, the agency’s acting commissioner, Carolyn Colvin, said efforts to collect on those old debts would cease immediately.

But although some people whose refunds were seized were reimbursed in recent months, some of those same taxpayers have since received new demands from Social Security, asserting that the debts remain and seeking repayment.

This shouldn’t surprise us. This is what our vindictive greedy government does. When they are caught in outrageous behavior, they back down, wait for the furor to die, and then continue to do it. They’re like roaches who scatter when the light is turned on then come back out when it’s dark. Asset forfeiture efforts slowed after Kelo, then resumed with greater furor. Drug War abuses will be suspended when there is a particularly horrible case, then resume when everyone’s moved on. And this particular Social Security-IRS grave-robbing hid under the baseboards for a few months and then came back. And any attention now will make them back down. And then in six months, they’ll be demanding money again.

Until Congress changes the law, Social Security will continue to hound people like this. It’s not enough to get outraged; Congress needs to act.

Ryan Unloads

Paul Ryan unloaded on the IRS commissioner during last week’s hearings. It’s pretty sweet:

I’ll tell you what really got me about this video: the arrogant smug look on that fuck Koskinen’s face. That’s the look of a man who knows he’s full of it and who knows he has Democrats on the committee who will carry his water for him. He clearly doesn’t give a damn that he has lied to Congress, misled them, mysteriously lost documentation. And he has the arrogance to insist he and his criminal agency have done nothing wrong.

Ryan has a critical point: we are expected to maintain our records for seven years (at least). If we can not document some expense or deduction, the law assumes that we have committed a crime (and under Sarbanes-Oxley, corporations face felony charges for losing emails). But the IRS is now demanding the presumption of innocence .. for them. The insist that we give them the benefit of a doubt that they never give us.

Here’s what we should do with the IRS: burn it to the ground. I don’t mean literally (although that would be fun). I mean dismantle and replace it with a completely new agency. We need something like the IRS to make sure people pay their taxes. But we do not need an agency that is so consumed with its own vanity, so drunk on its own power and so convinced of its own superiority that it can act in this fashion.

Whether or not there is something to the IRS scandal is kind of a sideshow at this point. We have a rogue unaccountable agency that can not document its own behavior but can seize the property of American citizens and make their lives hell. Get rid of it. Kill it. Drive a stake through its heart. And build a new revenue agency that is accountable, consistent and serves the people rather than servicing them the way a bull services a cow.

The Taxman Taketh

This is pretty fucking outrageous:

A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. Why the feds chose to take Mary’s money, rather than her surviving siblings’, is a mystery.

Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.

That law was passed when the Democrats controlled Congress. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.

It’s difficult to count the number of things wrong here: supposed overpayments of parents being extracted from their children; debts older than good scotch suddenly being valid again; the lack of any real evidence that an actual overpayment happened; plus, who wants to bet that they are primarily targeting middle class and poor people who lack the resources to fight it? Grice is taking them to court, but most people can’t afford that and it’s debatable whether the cost of fighting it would be more than the debt. And for a lot of people, tax refunds — correction, the return money they loaned the government interest-free — is a critical part of their budget.

In discussing student loans, I described our federal government as the world’s biggest predatory lender. Well, now they’ve become the world’s biggest predatory collection agency. Almost everything they are doing here would be illegal if a private agency tried to do it. But the gang of thugs who run our empire won’t be bound by rules. Rules are for plebs, not for the state.

Lerner Takes the Fifth

Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the IRS controversy over the targeting of Tea Party groups, took the fifth amendment again today, causing a contentious end to the hearings. There’s been a lot of foolishness thrown around in the wake of this. I’ll point you, once again, to Ken at Popehat

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments to the effect of “why should Lois Lerner take the Fifth if she has nothing to hide?” Ironically these comments often come from people who profess to oppose expansive government power, and from people who accept the proposition that Lerner was part of wrongdoing in the first place — in other words, that there was a government conspiracy to target people with the machinery of the IRS for holding unpopular political views. Such people do not seem to grasp how their predicate assumptions answer their own question.

You take the Fifth because the government can’t be trusted. You take the Fifth because what the truth is, and what the government thinks the truth is, are two very different things. You take the Fifth because even if you didn’t do anything wrong your statements can be used as building blocks in dishonest, or malicious, or politically motivated prosecutions against you. You take the Fifth because if you answer questions truthfully the government may still decide you are lying and prosecute you for lying.

Pardon me: if you accept the proposition that the government targets organizations for IRS scrutiny because of their political views, and you still say things like “why take the Fifth if you have nothing to hide”, then you’re either an idiot or a dishonest partisan hack.

Ken also gets into whether Lerner making a statement effectively waived her fifth amendment rights. The answer is that it’s not clear: court precedent is a bit murky on the subject. As I am devoted to an expansive view of civil liberties, I would err on the side of her not having waived her fifth amendment rights. I despise government weasel efforts to get around the clear intention of our Constitutional liberties. Saying she waived her rights is the kind of government lawyer trick I despise.

Watching the proceedings, however, I was struck by a parallel to the Iran-Contra Affair and, in particular, Ollie North. North’s testimony was compelled by granting him immunity because the Democrats were absolutely determined to get Ronald Reagan. When it turned out that Reagan hadn’t done anything wrong (at least nothing that could be proven beyond Democratic ranting and raving), they prosecuted North anyway. His conviction was thrown out since it’s rare that courts allow compelled testimony to be used against someone and you really can’t revoke an immunity agreement because you didn’t get what you wanted.

For what it’s worth, I think we’re seeing a similar drama play out now. The wrong-doing — at least that which can be proven — is primary confined to Lerner’s office. The Administration might have known or suspected what was going on, but there is no provable link (and before you say it, the IRS commissioner did not meet with Obama 157 times). And let’s face it: given the cult of personality built up around Obama and the culture of corruption that is rife in his government, it’s utterly believable that government flacks were acting on their own to advance the Administration’s political interests. It wouldn’t be the first time or the tenth time the Administration has let a part of the government “go rogue” because it benefitted them.

I think the Republicans know this. If they suspected they could get Obama, they would have granted Lerner immunity a year ago to get her testimony. But if the only person that Lerner’s testimony would burn is Lerner, there’s little political value to it. So every now and then, they hold a hearing, make some noise and go home.

And that’s a pity. Apart from wasting time and money, it does little to illuminate how this happened, how it can be prevented in the future and what oversights need to be put into place. This isn’t a game. The IRS wields a scary amount of power over the individual, including the ability to confiscate assets without a conviction. Whether this business hurts the President or not is kind of a side issue. If employees of the IRS are using the formidable power of the agency to advance any political agenda — whether directed by the White House or not — this is something that can’t be stopped fast enough.

(The behavior of the Democrats and their allies, of course, is utterly contemptible. They are still trying to pretend that this isn’t a scandal or, worse, that it was justified because the Tea Party is trying to destroy America. Even the bacteria in my stomach can see that they would be screaming the heavens down if this were a Republican Administration. It’s disgusting.)

Lerner should be granted immunity. If you think this was directed by the puppet master Obama, she could get immunity so we can prove it. If you think this was a rogue office advancing a political agenda with the Administration looking the other way, she could get immunity so we can figure out how to stop it. If you think is a whole lot of nothing — you possibly being an Obama Defense Derangement Syndrome sufferer who doesn’t care about the rule of law as long as the Tea Party gets it in the ass — she could get immunity so that this goes away.

I don’t like saying that since, as I noted, I think Lerner is probably the chief villain in this saga. But I would much rather get to the truth and prevent this from happening again than drag this out for another year in the vain hope that we will, one day, be able to nail her hide to the wall.

IRS Scandal update: FBI doing what?

According to the attorneys representing the groups screwed over by the IRS before the 2012 elections the FBI is doing “Zilch” despite this investigation being promised close to two months ago. From the article:

More than a month and a half after it was announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would launch an investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups, the groups and their legal representatives are still waiting to hear from the FBI.

Cleta Mitchell, an attorney representing nine tea party groups who were targeted by the IRS, told CNSNews.com that she has not heard from the FBI regarding the case and questions whether an investigation is actually underway.

“I have no reason to believe there is an investigation. It appears to me the Obama administration is only talking to itself,” Mitchell stated in an e-mail.

Mitchell and her clients are far from the only ones who are still left in the dark.

American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) Executive Director Jordan Sekulow, whose organization now represents 41 tea party groups in a case against the IRS, told CNSNews.com that they, too, are waiting to hear anything pertaining to the investigation.

“To date, none of our clients or any of our attorneys has been contacted by the FBI. The Director continues to assert that this is a priority for the Bureau, but at this point, there’s little evidence to suggest that this probe is on the fast track,” Mr. Sekulow wrote. “There has been no contact with any of the 41 conservative organizations we represent – the real victims of this IRS targeting scheme. Our expanded lawsuit continues to move forward.”

Not sure why this is news to anyone. The rats cannot investigate each other. If they start doing this, even if not in earnest, it might unravel on them and the crooks might all turn on each other hoping to sell someone else out in order to save their own skin. And they want none of that. So the FBI will interview nobody but claim they investigated and say they found nothing wrong. Just like the other departments involved in other scandals have been doing for going on 5 years now. And the LSM will lap it up and report that all is well in Black Jesus’ kingdom.

Don’t run afoul of these crooks. We are no longer a nation of laws, and justice only exists for the connected few. Ask Zimmerman.

IRS was engaged in election rigging. (UPDATED)

Again I had to find out from the foreign press that IRS’ own internal investigations clearly pointed at targeted malfeasance against conservatives, as much as 6 months before the 2012 elections, but this critical information and attempt to undermined our voting process was conveniently kept from congress:

Tempers flared in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday, with members on both sides of the aisle castigating the Internal Revenue Service for targeting conservative groups with special scrutiny, and then hiding the practice from Congress.

Rep. Darrel Issa, the committee’s chairman, said that the committee learned just yesterday that the IRS completed its own investigation a year before a Treasury Department Inspector General report was completed.

But despite the IRS recognizing in May 2012 that its employees were treating right-wing groups differently from other organizations, Issa said, IRS personnel withheld those conclusions from legislators.

‘Just yesterday the committee interviewed Holly Paz, the director of exempt organizations, rulings and agreements, division of the IRS,’ Issa said. ‘While a tremendous amount of attention is centered about the Inspector General’s report, or investigation, the committee has learned from Ms. Paz that she in fact participated in an IRS internal investigation that concluded in May of 2012 – May 3 of 2012 – and found essentially the same thing that Mr. George found more than a year later.’

So not only was the management at the IRS well aware that their employees were engaged in wielding the massive power of government to intimidate and suppress what these people clearly saw as enemies of the Nanny State, but they sat on it. There was a lot of this sort of stuff that went down before the election but was kept under wraps, it seems. I have a feeling that the LSM and many of the people now trying to pretend this stuff is all much ado about nothing, primarily because they like who won the election as a result of the lies and manipulations now coming to light and whom the target of the governmental abuse was, wouldn’t be so blasé about this all if it wasn’t their side that profited from it.

UPDATE: Holy freaking Sheat these Obamanauts are morons:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said embattled IRS official Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights and will be hauled back to appear before his panel again.

The California Republican said Lerner’s Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination was voided when she gave an opening statement this morning denying any wrongdoing and professing pride in her government service.

“When I asked her her questions from the very beginning, I did so so she could assert her rights prior to any statement,” Issa told POLITICO. “She chose not to do so — so she waived.”

….

Issa dismissed her from the committee room once it became clear she wouldn’t answer questions.

Lerner’s decision to speak at all immediately triggered a dust-up among lawmakers who were confused about whether she gave up her Fifth Amendment protections when she made an opening statement.

This chick is a lawyer right? And who was her lawyer? Did either understand how invoking the 5th works in the real world, or did they watch one Hollywood movie too many? These are the people running the country. No wonder things are as effed up as they are.

IRS and AP Scandal Updates

Scandal week continues. And it keeps getting more interesting.

One of the pieces of pravda handed down by this Administration was the the AP wiretap was put in place because of a leak that endangered national security. Um, maybe not:

For five days, reporters at the Associated Press had been sitting on a big scoop about a foiled al-Qaeda plot at the request of CIA officials. Then, in a hastily scheduled Monday morning meeting, the journalists were asked by agency officials to hold off on publishing the story for just one more day.

The CIA officials, who had initially cited national security concerns in an attempt to delay publication, no longer had those worries, according to individuals familiar with the exchange. Instead, the Obama administration was planning to announce the successful counterterrorism operation that Tuesday.

The AP balked and ran the story anyway. And then the investigation was begun. I could be generous and say that this was just a bureaucratic mixup. But I’m not feeling generous. This feels more like two things: a petty way to get back at the AP for stealing Obama’s thunder and a fishing expedition to see if they could find any government sources talking to the AP. Neither justifies obtaining two months worth of phone records.

Meanwhile, more details continue to emerge from the IRS scandal including details of just how invasive the questions were and allegations (unconfirmed) that a pro-Life group was told they couldn’t protest at Planned Parenthood Organizations.

But at least the people responsible are being … oh:

The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.

Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.

Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit.

Well, at least the liberals are going to … oh:

Democrats can’t say it; Barack Obama can’t say it; and the IRS certainly can’t say it, so here goes: The only real sin the IRS committed in its ostensible targeting of conservatives is the sin of political incorrectness—that is, of not pretending it needed to vet all the new groups that wanted tax-exempt status, even though it mostly just needed to vet right-wing groups.

The gist of this appalling defense of the IRS’s action by Noam Schieber is that those dumb Tea Party groups provoked the IRS by filing tax forms. Seriously:

It turns out that the applications the conservative groups submitted to the IRS—the ones the agency subsequently combed over, provoking nonstop howling—were unnecessary. The IRS doesn’t require so-called 501c4 organizations to apply for tax-exempt status. If anyone wants to start a social welfare group, they can just do it, then submit the corresponding tax return (form 990) at the end of the year. To be sure, the IRS certainly allows groups to apply for tax-exempt status if they want to make their status official. But the application is completely voluntary, making it a strange basis for an alleged witch hunt.

This is ridiculous. No one — certainly not anyone who is temperamentally suspicious of the government and the IRS — would wait before confirming their tax status.

Moreover, the IRS has admitted that they selected organizations based on their names and their stated purpose. There is evidence that “provocative” applications from left-wing groups sailed through just fine. In fact, one group had their application approved almost instantly when they changed their name to “Greenhouse Solutions.”

No matter how much the defenders wriggle, these are serious issues. Probably not “impeach the President” issues — Obama is currently wearing a fake moustache and claiming it was all Bush’s fault. But certainly serious enough to warrant investigations, resignations and, in the IRS scandal case, possibly criminal charges.

Sorry, Obama defenders. This is real.

Update: Jon Stewart nails it:

The Tax Man Politicizeth

Well, knock me over with a feather:

The Internal Revenue Service on Friday said that it inappropriately selected tea party political groups for special scrutiny in the 2012 campaign, an admission likely to fuel long-simmering suspicions among conservatives that the IRS has been singling them out for unfair treatment.

The IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, Lois Lerner, acknowledged at a conference on Friday the actions were wrong and apologized, according to the Associated Press. Lerner said groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status faced additional screening.

In a statement, the IRS said the screening occurred by career employees in Cincinnati who, between 2010 and 2012, were seeking to centralize work related to tax exempt organizations. The agency said that while it made errors, they were not politically motivated.

Sorry, didn’t mean to bold that part. I just spit my Coke all over the computer when I read it. Apparently, it was just a coincidence that the political groups they gave special scrutiny to were conservative.

Right.

Keep in mind that conservative groups have been complaining about this for months only to have it dismissed as crazy tinfoil hat black helicopter paranoia by the Left. But this was an extremely plausible accusation from the beginning. it’s not like these groups were accusing Obama of using mind-control rays. They were complaining about a tactic known to have been used by several previous presidents to intimidate opponents. In fact, we were just discussing Watergate, which included allegations of IRS abuse by Nixon.

Sometimes, it seems, they really are out to get you. It helps when you’ve made tax law so invasive and complicated that just about anyone can be targeted.

The Taxman Listeneth

Just fucking great:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has claimed that agents do not need warrants to read people’s emails, text messages and other private electronic communications, according to internal agency documents.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request, released the information on Wednesday.

In a 2009 handbook, the IRS said the Fourth Amendment does not protect emails because Internet users “do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” A 2010 presentation by the IRS Office of General Counsel reiterated the policy.

The 2010 presentation is critical because it took place after the Warshak decision said that people do have an expectation that e-mails will be private. The ACLU is still awaiting FOIA requests to see if other agencies are similarly thumbing their nose at Warshak.

Congress is supposedly working on legislation to put a warrant requirement on e-mails but they really shouldn’t need to. When you think about it, this should have been the subject of a 9-0 Supreme Court decision at some point. If the IRS broke into my house and confiscated letters, no one would tolerate it (we hope). But let an e-mail be stored on a server and suddenly it’s open season.

This is worse than it sounds, actually. Our government agencies will charge people with conspiracy and lying to investigators in circumstances where no actual crime was committed. So if they snoop through your e-mails and find an exchange with your accountant that looks suspicious, you could end up charged with a crime without actually having evaded any taxes based entirely on evidence obtained without a warrant.

(The IRS has issued a non-denial denial claiming they don’t “use emails to target taxpayers”. That careful wording avoids the point. We’re interested in why they target a taxpayer; we’re interested in what they do once they’ve targeted him.)

At some point, we have to stop putting up with this crap … in any context. Liberals can’t ignore this one because it’s the IRS getting tax cheats. Conservatives can’t ignore other contexts because it involves drug dealers or terrorists. No government agency should be allowed to read the entire contents of my spam folder without a warrant. Period.

The $40 Million Albatross

I tweeted about this a couple of days ago, but the more I think about it, the more I see it as the perfect confluence of government stupidity:

Heirs to important art collections are often subject to large tax bills. In this case, the beneficiaries, Nina Sundell and Antonio Homem, have paid $471 million in federal and state estate taxes related to Mrs. Sonnabend’s roughly $1 billion art collection, which included works by Modern masters from Jasper Johns to Andy Warhol. The children have already sold off a large part of it, approximately $600 million worth, to pay the taxes they owed, according to their lawyer, Ralph E. Lerner.

I want you to stop for a moment and think about that. An art collection was busted up because of our wonderful glorious inheritance tax. Keep in mind, there are many countries — Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden (!!) — that either don’t have an inheritance tax or have abolished it. As I noted in the Sunday Six-Pack thread, my Australian bankers were surprised that the US still had one.

Now that alone would make for an annoying story. But it gets better. One work is literally impossible to sell.

The object under discussion is “Canyon,” a masterwork of 20th-century art created by Robert Rauschenberg that Mrs. Sonnabend’s children inherited when she died in 2007.

Because the work, a sculptural combine, includes a stuffed bald eagle, a bird under federal protection, the heirs would be committing a felony if they ever tried to sell it. So their appraisers have valued the work at zero.

But the Internal Revenue Service takes a different view. It has appraised “Canyon” at $65 million and is demanding that the owners pay $29.2 million in taxes.

Plus $11 million in fines for trying rip the IRS off.

Look, this is not rocket science. If you literally can not sell something, the value of it is, by definition, $0. I may think my Dale Murphy baseball card is worth a million dollars. But the real value is whatever people are willing (and legally able) to pay for it. This is not a situation like, say, drug dealers, where the IRS wants a cut of an illegal activity that has already taken place. They want a cut of an activity that can never occur.

Even though they can’t legally do it, I’m hoping that the family will turn around and try to pay the tax bill by letting the IRS seize the sculpture. The resulting bureaucratic entanglement might tear a hole in the space-time continuum. But it would fun to watch the EPA and the IRS fight it out.