The Inspector General of the Treasury will be a very busy man indeed this year. According to CNN, the IG will launch an investigation to determine how a DHS whistleblower ended up on the IRS’ audit list after testifying before Congress. P. Jeffrey Black tried to fix problems in the federal air marshal service, but had IRS agents at his door the day he appeared in a documentary criticizing the Obama administration’s air security efforts:
He had taken a long list of complaints to lawmakers about how the air marshals service was run, ranging from problems keeping marshals on flights to allegations of ineptitude and favoritism by managers. The same year he retired, he appeared in “Please Remove Your Shoes,” a documentary critical of the airline security measures travelers endure on every trip.
Then came the audit, which an Internal Revenue Service agent told him about the same day the movie premiered — “almost to the hour,” he said.
The year-long investigation included the placement of a $24,000 lien against his home. In the end, the IRS found out Black owed them $480 — while the government owed him $8,300.
Black paid his $480; the government never paid him, saying the statute of limitations had run out. Now, he thinks someone — perhaps the Air Marshal Service, the Department of Homeland Security or elsewhere in the Obama administration — was using the IRS to retaliate against him.
“Being a veteran of extensive retaliation in my past, I am not surprised about this,” Black told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” “It is basically the only way they can retaliate against me after I retired.”
The IRS insists that audit decisions come from careerists at the agency, and politics don’t play any role in enforcement. However, that was their position on allegations of targeting Tea Party groups in their applications for tax-exempt status too, until it finally fell apart during an IG audit. After that got exposed, the IRS insisted that the targeting only took place among “low-level employees,” but later testimony showed that to be false.
This sounds more like the case of the National Organization for Marriage. Someone — and we still don’t know who — took information that is supposed to remain confidential by federal statute and leaked it to both the media and NOM’s political opponents. It’s no secret that NOM’s constituency is not closely aligned with the current power structure in Washington, and there seems to be no particular reason NOM would have been singled out for a leak except for political reasons.
These various events, including that of Black’s audit, strongly suggest that political corruption and retaliation are not isolated events at all in the IRS but are part of their organizational culture. The IG needs to investigate this thoroughly, and so does Congress, but the long-term solution has to be to transform the tax code to eliminate the IRS or greatly reduce its power, in order to prevent such abuses from happening in the future.