Bill Henck: Inside the IRS, part 4

William Henck has worked inside the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel as an attorney for over 26 years. We posted his personal account, including his testimony to a retaliatory audit conducted by the IRS against him, this past February in “Inside the IRS.” We followed up with part 2 in May and part 3 earlier this month.

When we posted the second of Bill’s two items in May, I called and wrote IRS public affairs to ask for any comment the agency might have. None was forthcoming; the agency declined to respond.

This morning we saw the IRS in action with the defiant testimony of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen before the House Ways and Means Committee. The destruction of two-years’ worth of Lois Lerner’s and friends email? The agency’s shoddy document retention practices? The IRS’s untimely disclosure of same? Koskinen presented the picture of defiance. What is going on here? Alluding to the personal and professional experiences recounted in the posts cited above, Bill Henck writes to comment:

As a 26-year veteran of the IRS, I am saddened by Commissioner Koskinen’s refusal to apologize to the House Ways and Means Committee or admit to any mistake or error on the part of the agency. One thing I am not, however, is surprised.

In order to understand the 501(c)(4) scandal or how the IRS operates, people must understand that IRS and chief counsel executives are insulated and unaccountable to anyone. They have not been accountable for a long period of time. This has led to a sense of entitlement and extraordinary levels of arrogance and misconduct. For example, the IRS did not even bother to respond concerning the black liquor situation, where the agency secretly gave away at least $2 billion to taxpayers who did not even think that they were entitled to the money. The manner in which the IRS operates is not about Republicans or Democrats or jokes about conspiracy theories. It is about basic accountability on the part of our government.

Commissioner Koskinen did not apologize for the same reason that the IRS did not apologize for covering up managerial embezzlement, conducting a retaliatory audit against my wife and me, bullying elderly taxpayers, and giving away billions of dollars to taxpayers represented by executives’ cronies. They are simply not accountable. Most people know that the words “I’m sorry” go a long way, but most people are accountable for their actions. With IRS and chief counsel executives, it is always more of the same:-more lies, more threats, more bull—.

I realize these are harsh words and I state them with regret. In the late 1990’s, I spoke out publicly in defense of the IRS against unfair accusations and received a death threat as a result. I’m proud of the vast majority of my colleagues and I hope that they understand why I am speaking out.

It is difficult for an outsider to understand the level of arrogance that infects IRS leadership. Perhaps a personal example will help demonstrate it. A few years ago, I disagreed with the Service’s legal reasoning in a case. Basically, I thought that the taxpayer had a pretty good argument. Needless to say, management retaliated against me. During an hour-long meeting where three managers were teeing off on me, I briefly mentioned that my family had been through a horrific experience where our oldest son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, was bullied in school and then the school system bullied my family. One of the managers responded by laughing at me, the second manager stated that it was a “personal problem,” and the third manager told me that I was unprofessional for mentioning a personal matter in a business meeting.

Not long thereafter, in 2010, the counsel division I am in had a conference in Chicago. The conference was like a cult of personality. Videos were shown, among other things, of the chief counsel playing the guitar, of executives’ baby pictures, of executives’ faces superimposed on Star Wars and River Dance characters, and of an executive marching around in Civil War garb. Belief in their position within the organization led IRS managers and executives to laugh at a child on the autism spectrum while at roughly the same time showing baby pictures of themselves at a conference.

When an organization and people’s positions within that organization become more important than anything else, people within that organization will inflict gratuitous levels of pain on others. That is where the IRS is right now. To IRS executives, the organization and their positions in it are more important than honor or integrity or even simple human decency. I wish Congress good luck. They are going to need it.

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