Do as we say not as we do comes to everyone’s least favorite government agency the Internal Revenue Service.
In an audit by the IRS’s inspector general, the agency refused to fire most of its employees who cheated on their taxes and in some cases promoted them.
In about 60 percent of cases of “willful violations” IRS managers found mitigating circumstances and refused to fire the employees, even though the law calls for that penalty. In some of those cases the managers didn’t even document why they’d overridden the penalty, said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George.
No wonder getting right answers from the IRS is so hard for regular American taxpayers, it appears many of the IRS’s top brass can’t figure out the tax code for themselves.
During the decade from 2004 to 2013, the IRS identified nearly 130,000 potential cases of tax violations by its own employees, and concluded about 10 percent of those were actual violations. Mr. George said the agency did a good job of spotting those issues.
Of those 13,000 cases, 1,580 were deemed to be intentional cheaters, and they were sent to managers for discipline. But in 60 percent of the cases, the managers refused to fire the employees.
Among the abuses were employees who repeatedly failed to file their returns on time, those who intentionally inflated their expenses and those who claimed the stimulus homebuyer’s tax credit without actually buying a home.
The IRS says they did a good job of rooting out tax cheats in their midst. But, as regualr Americans would go to jail and pay massive fines, IRS agents got free passes.
Of the 1,580 employees deemed to have intentionally cheated on their taxes, 108 of them received no punishment at all. The others were at least admonished, while 25 percent were fired and 14 percent were allowed to resign or retire instead of being fired.
The vast majority of substantiated reports involved “nonwillful” violations. Of those, just 238, or about 1 percent, were deemed serious enough to be fired. Another 1 percent were allowed to retire or resign, 47 percent were admonished, 26 percent were sent to counseling and 14 percent were closed without any punishment.
More than 2,000 employees had multiple red flags during the decade, the inspector general said. Investigators pulled a sample of 15 cases where an employee had repeated intentional violations and found that even there, the majority were allowed to remain on the job.
The inspector general took a sampling of 364 cases of intentional cheaters and found that 108 of them were not only not fire, but were given raises or promotions within a year of being found to be cheating.
There are advantages to being part of the massive federal bureaucracy. Private citizens pay the ultimate price, even for minor errors while IRS agents get the benefit of the doubt.