US tax agency defended against audits of top FBI officials fired under Trump

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington DC Photo by Tony Webster via Flickr

Internal Revenue Service employees likely did the right thing when they conducted thorough tax audits on two former FBI executives demonized by former President Donald Trump, the Professional Managers Association (PMA) said.

The New York Times revealed earlier this month that James B. Comey, former FBI Director and his deputy Andrew G. McCabe, had been selected for the most invasive audit performed by the IRS on their tax returns. 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Comey was fired by Trump in 2017, who was angered by his pursuit of an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 federal election in which Trump was elected. McCabe was fired by Trump’s Justice Department the following year after his watchdog accused him of misleading internal FBI investigators. Trump publicly lambasted both men after they were fired, accusing them of treason and calling for their prosecution.

The revelation that the two men were subject to the rare audits – known to tax lawyers as “an autopsy without death benefit” and which in 2017 for example was only carried out on around 5,000 of the 153 million declarations of personal income tax filings that year – led to accusations that IRS officials, who were under the direction of a Trump appointee, were politically motivated.

“Lightning strikes, and it’s unusual, and that’s what it’s like to be chosen for one of these audits. The question is, does lightning strike then again in the same zone?… You don’t have to be an anti-Trumper to look at this and think it’s suspicious,” John A. Koskinen, the IRS commissioner from 2013 to 2017, told The New York Times. .

“Left Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

However, the PMA, a national membership association formed in 1981 by IRS managers representing the interests of officials across the federal government, defended the conduct of IRS officials. He said “it’s no surprise” that Comey and McCabe’s tax returns were flagged by the IRS system – which operates on the basis of statistical evaluation – as abnormal because the two men published best-selling books after they were fired, which presumably led to a significant increase in their income. From one year to another.

“The two people’s tax returns likely changed dramatically in a short period of time, which makes these returns unusual. One would expect the Statistical Rating System to flag their returns for their local IRS office,” Chad Hooper, executive director of the PMA, said.

Hooper said that once a tax return has been flagged, “an IRS field official has limited discretion to go ahead with a research audit or remove a taxpayer from the sample. “.

“When a field manager is informed of the abnormal return of a controversial political figure, he has two choices: (1) conduct a research audit and face accusations of having conducted a politically motivated audit; or (2) give up on auditing and face accusations of leniency towards political figures.

“The IRS official is left between a rock and a hard place where either way there can be a perception of bias…you could say that’s the easiest The way forward for a manager is to conduct the audit as the statistical evaluation suggested. »

Hooper said the PMA is “confident that the vast majority of IRS employees are honoring their oath to serve the American people faithfully and impartially,” adding that if there was political interference or bias at play in the IRS research audits against Comey and McCabe, “we encourage the Service to take the necessary action.”[I]If there has been improper political interference or bias, we are confident it will be brought to light,” Hooper said.

“Much is still unknown, and we caution lawmakers and the media not to undermine public confidence in our tax system based on unsubstantiated assumptions or partial information,” he said.

The law prohibits the IRS from discussing specific cases, but said in a statement that IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig – who was appointed by Trump in 2018 – had no role in selecting candidates at the audit.

Several House Representatives and oversight committee chairs and members have called for an investigation into the selection of Comey and McCabe for the audit.

Mark Everson, who served as IRS commissioner from 2003 to 2007 and is now vice-chairman of a nationwide tax consultancy firm, told Government Executive he would be “astounded if the selection of these two people was any other random thing”, but he thinks a review is needed to “clear the air”.

At the time of publication, no such investigation had been announced.

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Esther L. Steinbach