Shame on the IRS! So abhorrent is the agency’s conduct in re-hiring employees who were fired for serious misconduct (think unauthorized access to taxpayer accounts, falsifying official documents, felony possession of a forgery device, lying about previous criminal convictions on employment forms, past tax problems including -“willful” tax noncompliance)- that Congress may have to step in. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., has proposed a bill to straighten out the IRS’ hiring policies. Its title: ‘‘Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act of 2018’’. The bill would prohibit the IRS from rehiring employees who have been previously fired for misconduct or poor performance.
Treasury Watchdog Blows the Whistle on IRS
The Treasury “Watchdog”, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a report last July titled “ The Internal Revenue Service Continues to Rehire Former Employees with Conduct and Performance Issues”. The report exposed the magnitude of the re-hiring problem as well as the IRS’ lackadaisical response. IRS officials stated that it would be “cost prohibitive” to “review prior issues before a hiring decision and tentative offer has been made”. Congress is actively looking into it and the TIGTA Report obviously prompted Rep. Noem’s bill which gained several additional sponsors this summer.
The TIGTA Report noted the substantial threat of identity theft and the concomitant magnitude of sensitive information held by the IRS. I can think of no other federal agency having such unsurpassed access to the personal financial (and other sensitive) information of the country’s citizens and foreign nationals who are US “tax residents”. Add to this mix, the enormous ability of the IRS to pursue individual taxpayers. The combination absolutely mandates the hiring of employees with the highest integrity and barring the employment of any individuals who have shown anything less.
US Taxpayers Abroad Should Especially Be Fuming
US taxpayers living overseas have particularly felt the sharp edge of the IRS’ sword when it comes to possible penalties for tax noncompliance, including for non-filing of the so-called FBAR. My previous blog posts have pointed out the numerous problems faced by many American expats in fully meeting their tax compliance duties (for example, see my posts here, here and here). In many cases, these problems do not stem from audacious misconduct or “willfulness”.
Congress has now bestowed upon the IRS the power to revoke a taxpayer’s US passport. For all Americans, but particularly for Americans living and working abroad who desperately rely on that little blue book, I can imagine no greater hardship. The IRS’ ability to wield such unrivaled power demands that the agency change its hiring practices and rid the federal government of any unworthy employee. It’s high time Congress steps in and takes action!
Can’t Get Rid of Them?
Readers should remember that unlike in the private sector, there are numerous safeguards in place to prevent the wrongful firing of any federal employee. Federal employees have the unique ability to challenge their dismissal, involving in many cases, the review of multiple federal agencies. The review and appeals process is so complicated that it is small wonder many managers choose to turn a blind eye and ignore troublesome employees for as long as possible! The layers of bureaucracy have ensured the greatest of job security to the extent that in a given year the federal government fires only 1 out of 500 government employees. Some reports give even greater odds of not losing your federal government job (a rate of 1 per 5,000). Given the rarity of federal employee terminations, I believe it’s a fair assumption that the termination was justified. Second chances should stop and when given a pink slip, federal employees should not be let back in any federal agency employment door.
Published August 11, 2018
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