The IRS refused to fire most of its own employees found to be cheating on their taxes – and in some cases even quickly turned around and promoted them within the year, according to a new audit released Wednesday.
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.
“Given its critical role in Federal tax administration, the IRS must ensure that its employees comply with the tax law in order to maintain the public’s confidence,” Mr. George said. “Willful violation of the law by IRS employees should not be taken lightly, and the IRS Commissioner should fully document decisions made to retain employees whom management has proposed be terminated.”
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 said its employees have a compliance rate of higher than 99 percent, which is actually much higher than other employers and is tops among all major federal agencies.
“Over ten years, TIGTA found an average of a little more than 150 IRS employees a year committed a willful tax violation. Of the total cases, 620 – or nearly 40 percent – resulted in the employee leaving their position because they were terminated, resigned or retired. Others faced strong disciplinary actions that included terminations, suspensions and reprimands,” the agency said.
The IRS also said it has taken steps to cancel bonuses that would otherwise have been paid to the tax cheats.
“Nonetheless, the IRS agrees that we can improve this process. The changes will include a more proactive approach to ensure timeliness and consistency and provide more transparency in the mitigation process while preserving the commissioner’s authority provided by federal law,” the agency said in its statement.
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.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Finance Committee, which oversees the IRS, said the report was a black mark for the IRS.
“Even worse, the agency appears to have rewarded some of them with cash bonuses, promotions, and paid time off,” the Utah Republican said. “This is unacceptable – American taxpayers deserve better.”
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who along with a review board must approve the decision to keep any employees deemed to have intentionally cheated on their taxes, has insisted things at his agency have improved over the last two years, which is when another report from Mr. George exposed that the IRS had singled out tea party groups for special scrutiny in their tax-exempt applications.
Mr. Koskinen has argued that budget cuts have eviscerated morale at the IRS, and he has pleaded with Congress to give him more money to hire staff. He also defended doling out bonuses to employees.
“They are not bonuses. They are performance awards. Over 40, 45 percent of the employees don’t get them. You only get them if you perform,” he said.
But he said he’s taken steps to try to make sure tax cheats don’t get awards.
“Even though we have over 99 percent compliance, I thought it was an important point,” he said.
Not only did the Clinton Foundation conceal the names of 1100 big foreign donors to an affiliate, it has lied about doing so. First, the concealment, via Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post:
A charity affiliated with the Clinton Foundation failed to reveal the identities of its 1,100 donors, creating a broad exception to the foundation’s promise to disclose funding sources as part of an ethics agreement with the Obama administration.
The number of undisclosed contributors to the charity, the Canada-based Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, signals a larger zone of secrecy around foundation donors than was previously known.
Details of the organization’s fundraising were disclosed this week by a spokeswoman for the Canadian group’s founder, mining magnate Frank Giustra.
Giustra is the billionaire who greased the skids for approval of the sale of American uranium mines to the Russians.
Now, for the Clintion Foundation lie. Helderman and Hamburger:
S foundation official this week defended the arrangement with the Giustra group, noting in a blog post that Canadian law prevents charities in that country from disclosing their donors without the donors’ permission.
The Canadian partnership has in recent days begun to reach out to its 28 largest donors, each of whom gave donations equivalent to at least $250,000 in U.S. dollars, to seek permission to release their names, said a person familiar with the foundation, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist exposes the lie:
The Clinton foundation claims that it couldn’t be totally transparent about who was doing business with this Giustra Partnership because of Canadian law barring them from listing individual donors. And in this CNN story, a Giustra spokesman claims that they didn’t brief the Clinton Foundation on donations to the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership:
Giuistra’s spokesperson would not detail the group’s donors, but said that no one from the Clinton Foundation was briefed on donations to The Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada) because that would have broken Canadian law.
But @morgenr found a few instances of the Clintons publishing this information on Canadian web sites (snip)
According to an expert on Canadian charitable organization law, however, the Clinton Foundation claim that public disclosures are barred by federal law rests on shaky ground. Adam Aptowitzer, an attorney with Drache Aptowitzer LLP, told The Federalist that Canadian federal law does not have a blanket prohibition on public disclosure of the names of charity donors.
“Federal law prohibits disclosure related to commercial activity: things like selling, renting, or bartering of a list. Fundraising is not a covered activity under PIPEDA, the federal privacy law,” Aptowitzer said. Federal privacy laws in Canada prohibit the disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activity.
“I don’t see how the public disclosure of a donor’s name constitutes commercial activity,” Aptowitzer concluded. “There’s no transaction; there’s no consideration.”
As Aptowitzer notes, Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) discusses disclosure of personal information but it covers only commercial activities. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada specifically declares that charities are exempted:
It should be noted that PIPEDA does not apply to organizations that are not engaged in commercial activity. As such, it does not generally apply to not-for-profit and charity groups, associations or political parties, for example – unless the organization is conducting a commercial activity (fundraising is not considered a commercial activity).
The Federalist also reached out to the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the primary federal overseer of charitable organizations in Canada, and asked if the agency was aware of any blanket statutory ban on donor disclosure.
“The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is responsible for administering only those provisions of the Income Tax Act that relate to the registration and monitoring of charities and other qualified donees,” Magali Deussing, a public affairs representative for the CRA, told The Federalist. “Although the Income Tax Act regulates whether the CRA can disclose taxpayer information (including donor information), it does not regulate whether a registered charity or other qualified donee can disclose donor information.”
Either way, if the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership’s Canadian bundler somehow felt that they needed to ask for permission, they could easily do that. Just looking at other large Canadian foundations shows us that other foundations don’t hide their donors using claims it’s illegal to disclose donor information in Canada.
All the big donors to United Way in Toronto, for instance, are named on the charity’s web site, including roughly how much they gave. If donors “requested” anonymity, United Way gave it but no one who gave at the Platinum Club ($5M+), Gold Club ($2.5M-$5M) or Million Dollar Round Table ($1M-2.5M) levels did so. All the folks who made endowment and bequest gifts – with a few exceptions – were listed on the United Way Toronto’s website. None who gave at the $500K+ level requested anonymity. Or the $200K-$500K level. And so on and so forth. Why should United Way Toronto have such a higher standard for transparency than the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership? This is particularly true considering the nature of the mining deals charitable work being done by the Clinton groups.
In an update, Hemingway debunks the respone of the Clinton Foundation:
[UPDATE: After this article was initially published, the Clinton Foundation sent The Federalist two links (here and here) allegedly supporting its contention that federal law in Canada prohibits public disclosure of the names of charitable organization donors. Unfortunately for the Clinton Foundation, neither link supports the organization’s rationale for deliberately withholding donor information from the public. In fact, one of the links actually includes information that directly contradicts the Clinton Foundation’s assertion.
According to a guide for non-profit compliance that is prominently linked on the page provided by the Clinton Foundation, fundraising activities of non-profits are specifically exempt from the privacy protections in Canada’s federal privacy law. Why? Because, as the article below states, public disclosure of non-profit donors does not constitute “commercial activity” and is therefore not at all prohibited:
Most non-profits are not subject to the Act because they do not engage in commercial activities. This is typically the case with most charities, minor hockey associations, clubs, community groups and advocacy organizations. Collecting membership fees, organizing club activities, compiling a list of members’ names and addresses, and mailing out newsletters are not considered commercial activities. Similarly, fundraising is not a commercial activity.