New IRS Commissioner Koskinen isn’t exactly making new friends for the agency in Congress. His testimony Friday on the implausible rash of hard-drive failures that hit the IRS just as Congress began looking at Tea Party harassment amounted to an insistence that Congress take the IRS at its word, and give it more money. From Tax Analysts ($link):
“I don’t think an apology is owed,” Koskinen answered. “Not a single e-mail has been lost since the start of this investigation.”
Regarding the six other IRS employees who have experienced computer failures since the investigation began, Koskinen said technology experts told him that 3 to 5 percent of hard drives can be expected to fail during their warrantied lifetimes.
It just happened to all the hard drives of the people most involved in beating up on the Tea Party.
Commissioner Koskinen (correctly) points out that the IRS is underfunded for all of the chores (unwisely) given it by Congress. With Congressional Republicans understandably reluctant to fund an agency it percieves, with justification, as its opposition, Mr. Koskinen ought to be going out of his way to assure them that he is making sure to eliminate political bias in the agency and to fully cooperate with the investigation. He is doing nothing of the sort, and he may have already irretreivably lost his opportunity to convince GOP appropriators that he can be trusted.
IRS stonewalling isn’t a new thing. As the many lawsuits filed by Tax Analysts to get the IRS to release its internal documents show, covering up is a way of life in the agency. Christopher Bergin, in The Coverup Is Usually Worse Than the Crime (Tax Analysts Blog), gives some background:
Maybe it’s just sloppy record-keeping, which would be bad enough. Most of the government’s business is now conducted digitally, and those records need to be properly handled. Or is it worse? Is the IRS deliberately keeping things from the public? Excuse my cynicism, but the IRS’s penchant for secrecy is what led Tax Analysts, using the new Freedom of Information Act, to sue the agency in the 1970s to force it to release private letter rulings. There have been several subsequent lawsuits to pry records that should have been public out of the agency’s hands.
The idea that IRS emails are public records requiring preservation is nothing new, and was well-established at the time Ms. Lerner was busy. It’s either negligent and outrageous incompetence or criminal destruction of public records, and to say that the IRS owes no apologies is to say that at least one of these unpleasant choices is just fine with him.
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 410
Megan McArdle, An IRS Conspiracy? Not Likely … Yet. “To be clear, of course six tragic hard drive failures in a relatively short period of time would make it very hard to believe in a benign explanation.”
Russ Fox, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Backups
Jason Dinesen, Bedside Manner is Important for Tax Pros, Too
Peter Reilly, Does Sixth Circuit ABC Decision Give Tenants Incentive To Buy? “ABC Beverage Corporation is entitled to deduct the premium portion of the price it paid for the real estate as a cost of terminating the lease.”
Keith Fogg, D.C. Circuit Upholds the Constitutionality of Presidential Removal Powers of Tax Court Judges (Procedurally Taxing)
I think it’s only half-baked. Stick a Fork in It: Is the Corporate Income Tax Done? (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)
It’s not just a problem in Florida. Seven indicted in Minnesota identity theft ring (TwinCities.com).
Quad City Times, Tax credits boost solar power in Iowa
David Henderson, Low-Carbon Alternatives: Solar and Wind Suck (Econlog). “[A]ssuming reductions in carbon emissions are valued at $50 per metric ton and the price of natural gas is $16 per million Btu or less–nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle have far more net benefits than either wind or solar.”
Roberton Williams, U.S. Taxes Have Changed A Lot Since 1929 (TaxVox)
Steve Wamhoff, Good and Bad Proposals to Address the Highway Trust Fund Shortfall (Tax Justice Blog). The TJB has started putting individual author names on their posts, so I’ll do so too.
David Brunori, Tax Policy Is Not the Way to Deal With an Ass (Tax Analsyts Blog). Not every problem is a tax problem.