IRS Acting Commissioner Speaking Before Congress on Monday

The acting commissioner of the IRS will appear before a Congressional hearing on Monday to answer questions about new information on the unauthorized tax audits of conservative groups, as well as rampant IRS spending on conferences.

Danny Werfel, the acting commissioner of the IRS, will appear before the House Appropriations Committee.  The Committee is expected to focus questions on two areas.

First, the inspector general of the Treasury Department released a report on Sunday indicating that the IRS spent approximately $50 million on 220 conferences between 2010 and 2012.  This spending included a spent of over $60,000 on team building videos.

Second, an IRS agent in the Cincinnati field office accused of targeting conservative organizations is indicating she was following orders from leadership in Washington, D.C.  The targeting included subjecting the conservative organizations to additional tax audits as well as other tactics to delay processing of the organizations’ applications for tax-exempt status.

The statements from the IRS agent conflict with assertions from the White House.  The White House indicates the IRS tactics were purely the brainchild of rogue IRS agents, not driven by leadership in Washington.

The IRS agent indicated that within a month of receiving the order the office had opened over 40 cases.  All of the cases involved conservative organizations.

Over a half dozen of these cases were sent to requesting leaders in Washington.  In addition, the IRS agent noted that several of the cases were focused on applicants who were identified by name from Washington.

When the agent was asked about allegations that she was among those low-level employees who originated the idea to target conservative organizations, she indicated that theory simply did not align with the reality of how the IRS operates.

“It’s impossible.  As an agent we are controlled by many, many people.  We have to submit many, many reports.  So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen… They were basically throwing us underneath the bus.”

The White House has denied involvement in the IRS’ actions.  These denials have come primarily via statements from Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary.  However, Carney’s statements have at times conflicted with one another, bringing to question when the White House learned about the investigation into the IRS’ actions, the findings of those investigations, and if the White House was directly involved.

Some members of Congress have had harsh criticism of Carney and the White House, including California Republication Representative Darrell Issa.

“Their paid liar, their spokesperson… he’s still making up things about what happened and calling this a local rogue,” noted Issa.

Issa is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affair Committee, the committee whose review unearthed the IRS spend on conferences.

Issa provided media outlets a copy of the transcript of the interview in which the IRS agent indicated she was following the direction of leadership in Washington.

Officials from the IRS have indicated the tax audits were not driven by political motivations.  However, the audits appeared to increase in intensity as the 2012 election cycle approached.  And to date only conservative organizations have been identified as targets of the additional IRS scrutiny.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.