New York Observer.....
Great news! IRS commissioner says you can now use the Lois Lerner excuse if audited
POSTED AT 4:01 PM ON JUNE 27, 2014 BY NOAH ROTHMAN
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.”
IRS spent $4.4 billion on IT over past five years
POSTED AT 2:01 PM ON JUNE 27, 2014 BY ED MORRISSEY
A nice catch by Mary Lou Byrd at the Free Beacon, and an instant rebuttal to claims that the destruction of e-mails related to the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS is a budget issue. When Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee haven’t busied themselves with obsequious apologies to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for the Republicans holding his agency accountable for abuse of power, they and other defenders of the IRS complained that the real lesson of the epidemic of hard-drive failures and data lossesis that the IRS really needs more money. According to government records, though, the IRS has spent more than $4 billion on information technology over the last five years:
The IRS under the Obama Administration has spent over $4 billion on contracts labeled under information technology and software despite IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testifying this week that budgetary restraints prevented the agency from spending $10 million to save and store emails.Koskinen said “declining budget resources” at the IRS caused the agency decided to reject spending the $10 million needed to ensure emails were properly secured.A review of IRS spending by the Free Beacon shows the agency has spent a massive amount on what it labeled as IT/software and data processing contracts in the past five fiscal years. The official government’s spending website shows the IRS spent $4.4 billion during this time period.
That improves on the Bush administration funding for IRS’ IT efforts, but not by a huge percentage. Over eight years, the IRS spent $5.3 billion on IT during the Bush years, making for almost ten billion dollars spent over the last 13 years. That’s an average of $746 million a year over that period, and $880 million a year during the Obama administration. With that kind of money, it’s difficult to explain why the IRS could afford the kind of data storage that the federal government requires publicly-held corporations to use in Sarbanes-Oxley regulation, and indeed what the IRS is required to do under federal law as well. And this data makes it very clear that budget resources were not “declining” at all at the IRS, at least not in the IT budget, despite what Koskinen claims.
That’s not the only questionable claim from the IRS commissioner, either. Last night, Koskinen appeared on CNN to tell Wolf Blitzer that he’s expecting an interim report from the Inspector General soon, and that losing e-mails isn’t the same as losing official records:
Ahem. Koskinen still hasn’t read the IRS manual, it seems, because it’s quite clear that it considers all e-mail messages as “official documents”:
- Email messages are official documents and should reflect this perspective. Email communications can be offered as evidence in court and can be legally binding. Before sending an email, you must consider how it reflects on the Service’s image and take into account privacy, records management, and security factors.
And there’s also this at 188.8.131.52.3:
- All federal employees and federal contractors are required by law to preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency. Records must be properly stored and preserved, available for retrieval and subject to appropriate approved disposition schedules.
- The Federal Records Act applies to email records just as it does to records you create using other media. Emails are records when they are:
- Created or received in the transaction of agency business
- Appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function and activities, or
- Valuable because of the information they contain
Maybe Koskinen should take the time to learn his own agency’s regulations, even beforelearning the law of spoliation. And perhaps Democrats should consider just how it looks to set themselves up as the chief defenders and apologists for the IRS and the painfully obvious arrogance coming from its chief bureaucrat. Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein reluctantly concurred with Mark Halperin on Morning Joe today that the optics of Democratic incuriosity about IRS abuse of power looks awful: