IRS Has Long History of Political Dirty Tricks

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His clients, in return, received audits.

A lot of pain can be inflicted, he points out, under the guise of auditing. The IRS demands in-person meetings; it subjects the persons being audited to "a paperwork blizzard." Once an audit starts, he says, the IRS wants to look into "all kinds of things," not just income and deductions.

"Currently," Watkins says, referring the today's evolving IRS scandal, "people are shocked and talking about their loss of confidence. But is has always been this way. The IRS has a storied history of being bulldogs.

"It has a history of blaming low-level employees for these intrusive behaviors. But with Nixon and FDR, it was clearly direction from the top: FDR used it to look into Huey Long; he used it to look back into the Hoover administration."

Various laws prohibit the IRS and other government agencies from singling out a group for special scrutiny because of its politics, according to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School. That would violate, for example, the Hatch Act, which prohibits civil servants from engaging in partisan political activity during the performance of their jobs and 18 USC Section 241, which makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree together to intimidate a person in the free exercise of any right secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States.

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