The office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has released a report showing that IRS employees continue to use now prohibited language like “tax protester” and (our personal favorite) “Constitutionally-challenged” in reference to non-compliant taxpayers, despite being barred from doing so since 1998.
Congress enacted the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98) Section 3707 to prohibit the IRS from labeling taxpayers as “Illegal Tax Protesters” or any similar designations. However, IRS employees continue to refer to taxpayers by these designations in case narratives. Using “Illegal Tax Protester” or other similar designations may stigmatize taxpayers and may cause employee bias in future contacts with these taxpayers.
Prior to enactment of the RRA 98, the IRS used the Illegal Tax Protester Program to identify individuals and businesses that were using methods that were not legally valid to protest the tax laws. Employees identified taxpayers for referral to the program when their tax returns or correspondence contained specific indicators of noncompliance with the tax law, such as the use of arguments that had been repeatedly rejected by the courts. There were tax protester coordinators who were responsible for determining whether a taxpayer should be included in the Illegal Tax Protester Program; if a taxpayer was classified as an Illegal Tax Protester, the taxpayer’s record was coded as such on the Master File. Once a taxpayer’s account was coded, certain tax enforcement actions were accelerated. The designation was also intended to alert employees to be cautious so they would not be drawn into confrontations with taxpayers.
The IRS has not reintroduced past Illegal Tax Protester codes or similar designations on taxpayer accounts. In addition, the Internal Revenue Manual no longer contains any Illegal Tax Protester references. However, TIGTA found that out of approximately 3.6 million records and cases, there were 38 instances in which 34 employees had referred to taxpayers as “Tax Protester,” “Constitutionally Challenged,” or other similar designations in case narratives on the computer systems analyzed.
The TIGTA made no recommendations after their report, as the IRS has continued to use the term “tax protester” in taxpayer case files when it sees fit, despite the fact that the TIGTA feels this is not in compliance with RRA 98 § 3707 for obvious reasons.
It appears they do this once a year:
The TIGTA Would Prefer It if the IRS Could Use a Nicer Term Than “Tax Protester”
Back in 1998 when some of you were just starting your careers, some of you were discovering alcohol and some of you still hadn’t hit puberty, Congress enacted the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98). In Section 3707 of this piece of legislative ingenuity, the IRS is prohibited from using the term “illegal tax protesters or any similar designations.”
Why no name calling? The TIGTA claims it “may stigmatize taxpayers and may cause employee bias in future contacts with these taxpayers.” Plus, it really hurst people’s feelings.
This latest edition of government-mandated IRS bashing especially seems like a stretch since this “problem” of calling a spade a spade isn’t that widespread:
We found that, out of approximately 80.6 million records and cases, there were 196 instances in which employees had labeled taxpayers as “Tax Protester,” “Constitutionally Challenged,” or other similar designations in case narratives on the following computer systems during the period of October 2008 through September 2009[.]
For starters, “Constitutionally Challenged” sounds like something you might apply to a Tea Party member. Secondly, you can do the math on the 196 instances out of 80-odd million but the concern on the part of the Inspector General might be overblown.
Luckily for us citizens, we can throw around any term we want with reckless abandon and there’s no repercussions. That being said, the TIGTA didn’t make any recommendations to the IRS on how to curb the usage of axtay rotestorpay and the IRS didn’t buy the Inspector’s story that the 196 instances were, in fact, violations. So, if you’ve come to the conclusion that this TIGTA report was the biggest waste of time and tax dollars in the history of the Treasury Department, you probably wouldn’t be far off.
For you viewing pleasure, FT Alphaville has provided some illustrations so that we might better conceptualize Matt Taibbi’s labeling of Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”, which still makes us wince.
All we’ll say is that includes Darth Vader so that makes it worth a look.
Vampire squid, illustrated edition [FT Alphaville]