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Thursday, March 27, 2014

IRS TEA PARTY SCANDAL: Lawmakers told IRS probe will take years

By Stephen Dinan  -  The Washington Times  -  Wednesday, March 26, 2014

irs-investigationThe Internal Revenue Service’s tea party targeting program is still withholding approval of 19 organizations’ nonprofit status, nearly a year after the scandal was revealed, the agency’s commissioner testified Wednesday to Congress — where he faced fierce criticism from lawmakers who said he is stonewalling.

John Koskinen, the man President Obama tapped to clean up the embattled agency, also said it will take years to respond to all of the document requests from Congress. He told Congress that even complying with a subpoena for emails from just a handful of key employees couldn’t be done before the end of this year because it takes time to have attorneys delete protected taxpayer information.

Republicans signaled that they are moving ahead with plans to hold former IRS employee Lois G. Lerner in contempt of Congress. They released a memo from the House counsel saying the committee made her aware that it expected her to answer questions at a hearing earlier this month, and that she endangered her legal standing by again refusing to testify.

“The American people believe the IRS is now a politicized agency, because the IRS is a politicized agency,” said Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The IRS continues to face scrutiny after an internal audit by its inspector general last year found the agency had improperly singled out conservative and tea party nonprofit applications for special scrutiny and had delayed many of those applications — in some cases for three years.

Nearly a year after the targeting and delays were revealed, however, some groups are still awaiting approval.

Mr. Koskinen said of 145 cases that were part of their “priority backlog,” which meant they had been waiting for at least 120 days as of May, they have closed 126. Most were approved, including 43 that took advantage of a deal the IRS offered in which the groups could agree to keep political activity to less than 40 percent.

Three applications were formally denied, and 25 others dropped their applications or had them canceled when petitioners didn’t respond to IRS questions.

“The 19 cases still open generally fall into one of two categories: either the taxpayer has asked for and received additional time to respond to our questions, or the case is being litigated,” Mr. Koskinen said in his prepared testimony to the committee. “None of these 19 organizations opted to accept the self-certification procedure used by 43 organizations to obtain prompt approval of their applications.”

The IRS didn’t respond to questions seeking the identities of the groups involved. The agency generally argues that it isn’t allowed to share information on specific taxpayers because of privacy rules.

READ ENTIRE STORY HERE