The talented Mr. “Haus”

The Wall Street Journal draws attention to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan’s letter to the IRS in the editorial “The IRS Makes Another House Call.” Subhead: “The House GOP wants to know about the case of the talented ‘Bill Haus.’” The subhead alludes to Patricia Highsmith’s talented Mr. Ripley — the pathological impostor/murderer.

The committee has posted a press release on the incident giving rise to Jordan’s letter here. It has posted Jordan’s letter to the IRS here. This is statement of facts set forth in Jordan’s letter (footnotes omitted):

On March 27, 2023, the Committee previously wrote to you and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about an IRS agent visiting—unannounced and unprompted—the home of journalist Matt Taibbi. Incredibly, at the time of the visit, Mr. Taibbi was testifying before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government about how the federal government pressured, coerced, and even directed technology companies to take certain actions related to digital content. The Committee is continuing to investigate the IRS’s reasons for visiting Mr. Taibbi’s home and whether the visit was conducted in an attempt to intimidate a witness before Congress.

Since then, the Committee has learned of another instance in which an IRS agent performed an unannounced field visit to a taxpayer. The details of this field visit are bizarre. On April 25, 2023, an IRS agent—who identified himself as “Bill Haus” with the IRS’s Criminal Division—visited the home of a taxpayer in Marion, Ohio. Agent “Haus” informed the taxpayer he was at her home to discuss issues concerning an estate for which the taxpayer was the fiduciary. After Agent “Haus” shared details about the estate only the IRS would know, the taxpayer let him in. Agent “Haus” told the taxpayer that she did not properly complete the filings for the estate and that she owed the IRS “a substantial amount.” Prior to the visit, however, the taxpayer had not received any notice from the IRS of an outstanding balance on the estate.

During the visit, the taxpayer told Agent “Haus” that the estate was resolved in January 2023, and provided him with proof that she had paid all taxes for the decedent’s estate. At this point, Agent “Haus” revealed that the true purpose of his visit was not due to any issue with the decedent’s estate, but rather because the decedent allegedly had several delinquent tax return filings. Agent “Haus” provided several documents to the taxpayer for her to fill out, which included sensitive information about the decedent.

The taxpayer called her attorney who immediately and repeatedly asked Agent “Haus” to leave the taxpayer’s home. Agent “Haus” responded aggressively, insisting: “I am an IRS agent, I can be at and go into anyone’s house at any time I want to be.” Before finally leaving the taxpayer’s property, Agent “Haus” said he would mail paperwork to the taxpayer, and threatened that she had one week to satisfy the remaining balance or he would freeze all her assets and put a lien on her house.

On May 4, 2023, the taxpayer spoke with the supervisor of Agent “Haus,” who clarified nothing was owed on the estate. The supervisor even admitted to the taxpayer that “things never should have gotten this far.” On May 5, 2023, however, the taxpayer received a letter from the IRS — the first and only written notice the taxpayer received of the decedent’s delinquent tax filings—addressed to the decedent, which stated the decedent was delinquent on several 1040 filings. On May 15, 2023, the taxpayer spoke again with supervisor of Agent “Haus,” who told the taxpayer to disregard the May 5 letter because nothing was due. On May 30, 2023, the taxpayer received a letter from the IRS that the case had been closed.

The letter’s statement of facts concludes on this understated note: “This behavior from an IRS agent to an American taxpayer—providing an alias, using deception to secure entry into the taxpayer’s home, and then filing an Inspector General complaint against a police officer examining that matter—is highly concerning.”

Yes, indeed, we are concerned about the talented Mr. “Haus.” Some committee staffer had fun writing Jordan’s letter.

The statement of facts reads like a law school exam question requiring students to spot issues: “Identify each instance of illegal misconduct you find in these events and cite the federal statute(s) that may apply.”

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