In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday evening, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen revealed that a number of taxpayers are confused by his agency’s conduct. Like the IRS, they would also like to claim that corrupted or lost data prevents them from complying with the tax collection agency’s requests with for several-year-old documents. Koskinen told Blitzer that what may come to be known as “The Lerner Defense” is and has been acceptable to the IRS.
During Thursday’s interview, an eager Twitter user submitted a question to Blitzer which he helpfully read on the air. “Why shouldn’t tax payers use the crashed hard drive excuse when undergoing an IRS audit?” the user asked.
“A number of them have already done that, and the question has been ‘Is there a dual standard?’” Koskinen observed.
“We, historically – if a taxpayer has lost electronic records – have said ‘If you have other indications and evidence of what went on, we’ll take that from you,’” Koskinen continued. “If you lose a document, it doesn’t mean you lose the argument.”
“We actually work with taxpayers to say, ‘We’ll look at other evidence,’ like the 24,000 emails [from Lois Lerner the IRS already submitted to congressional investigators],” the commissioner added.
He concluded by noting that the IRS “will support you” and “you won’t have any problem” if the average taxpayer undergoing an audit behaves in the precise same fashion that the IRS has over the course of the investigation into the admitted targeting of conservative groups.
You might want to hold onto those old tax filings before taking Mr. Koskinen at his word just yet. Something tells me “The Lerner Defense” won’t be as readily accepted by IRS investigators as the commissioner suggests.
Later in the interview, Koskinen appeared to backtrack on his insistence before a congressional committee that the IRS’s conduct did not merit him offering them an apology. Apparently, he determined that an apology to the American people was due:
“The improper criteria used to highlight organizations for investigation just by their name was a mistake,” Koskinen said. “I apologize to anybody who ever had their applications held up needlessly. Everybody needs to be confident that the IRS is going to treat them fairly no matter who they are. Republicans, Democrats, whatever organization they belong to. So it’s a serious matter.”