Perhaps the most suspicious thing about the disappearance of Lois Lerner’s emails is that the IRS is not a small business operation that cannot afford high-quality computer, email, and backup systems. It is a huge modern bureaucracy that has computer technology at the core of its operations. The IRS IT budget in 2014 is a massive $2.4 billion (page 149 here).
I’ve watched the congressional hearings on the IRS scandal, and like others, have been appalled at the glib performance of former IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman. Shulman isn’t taking an ounce of blame for the mess even though he headed the agency from 2008 to 2012. Dana Milbank reviews his slippery and rather arrogant performance in the Washington Post today.
The stories coming out about IRS abuses of nonprofit groups are appalling. We will likely find out that arrogant and biased officials are to blame, as well as members of Congress who pushed them to be especially aggressive on conservative groups.
The revelations of IRS officials targeting conservative and libertarian groups suggest that now is a good time for lawmakers to review a broad range of the agency’s activities. Since the agency’s last overhaul in the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, its budget has exploded from $33 billion to a proposed $106 billion in 2013.
A report from the Internal Revenue Service’s inspector general “estimates the IRS could issue $21 billion in potentially fraudulent tax refunds resulting from identity theft over the next five years.” The inspector general told CNBC that the fraud is a “growing problem” and that the numbers are growing “exponentially”: