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Congress continues IRS questioning

By Kay Bell ·
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

Cynics say the main reason Congress has jumped all over recent Washington scandals is political -- including the Internal Revenue Service's mishandling of conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status.

If the political goal is to ding President Barack Obama, it's not working.

A trio of recent polls -- CNN/ORC, Gallup and Rasmussen -- shows public perception of Obama is holding steady or has bumped up a tick.

But Congress is nothing if not persistent.

The House Ways and Means Committee called Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller on the carpet May 17. He's out of that job in early June. Also testifying that day was J. Russell George, the man in charge of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration investigation into the questionable tax-exempt processing.

Now two more committees take their turns at the IRS.

Senate Finance hearing

Miller and George will be on the other side of Capitol Hill today, May 21, as members of the Senate Committee on Finance get to ask their questions.

Former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, for whom Miller took over when Shulman left the top IRS post last November, also will testify before the Finance Committee.

House Oversight Committee hearing

On Wednesday, the witnesses trek back to the House.

Miller gets a pass on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

No such luck for George, though. He'll be back before lawmakers, as will Shulman.

Two new faces will also answer Oversight members' questions: Neal S. Wolin, Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Treasury, and Lois Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS.

Lerner is the person credited -- or blamed, depending on your point of view -- with making the IRS tax-exempt review process public. On May 10, while answering questions following remarks to an American Bar Association audience, Lerner apologized for the application scrutiny by some IRS personnel in her division.

Many both inside and outside the beltway have questions as to how much Lerner knew and when she knew it. Some lawmakers have called for her to resign, too.

So you might want to tune into C-SPAN or watch the Oversight Committee's online streaming of the hearing May 22. There could be fireworks.

Not a full cynic

Now, about the question of whether the IRS situation deserves to be called a scandal: Call me a half-cynic.

I worked in Washington, D.C., for 20 years. I've seen folks from all across the political spectrum try to make partisan hay when the sun shines on their particular parties or positions.

So I am not surprised that there are some who want to keep pounding on the IRS and the White House, regardless of the eventual final findings, until Election Day 2014.

But I also believe that some U.S. Representatives and Senators really do just want answers, regardless of where they lead, that will help fix this particular problem at the tax agency and prevent future ones.

Personally, I believe this IRS situation is a case of a huge bureaucracy where some of its employees were in over their heads in handling a sensitive issue. When all is said and done, Miller probably will have some company on the IRS unemployment line, but I don't see a grand conspiracy.


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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book "The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes" and a co-author of the e-book "Future Millionaires' Guidebook."

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Ed Decker
May 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Kay Bell must have supported Obama or she would not be so tolerant of the IRS's targeting certain groups.

Danita Sisco
May 22, 2013 at 8:26 pm

It is apparent that Kay Bell is not aware of how hard our forefathers fought for freedom. If you value your freedoms and do not want tyranny and socialism, not only will you question the tactics this present administration is doing, you fire and impeach (and remove) from office the offenders. If businesses ran like the government, we'd all be broke. It's time to shutter the IRS and all its employees and go to the Fair Tax.