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IRS Suffers ‘Seizure Fever,’ Agents Tell Subcommittee

Associated Press

Veteran employees of the Internal Revenue Service told the Senate Monday that their bosses routinely ignore orders from Washington and base promotions on the number of property seizures from delinquent taxpayers.

“Seizure Fever--Catch It” reads a sign on the door of an office in the Los Angeles district, said John Pepping, a revenue officer assigned there. Some offices offer extra time off to those who make the most seizures, he said.

“You feel like you’re working in a mental institution,” added Robert Miller of the Wheaton, Md., office.

Five IRS revenue officers with 100 years’ total service, whose chief job is collecting delinquent taxes, testified before the Senate Finance subcommittee, which oversees the IRS. The panel is considering a “taxpayers’ bill of rights” whose provisions include one making it illegal for the agency to use property seizures and revenue collections as a basis for promoting employees.

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The bill has 28 sponsors in the Senate and more than 70 in the House. Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.), chairman of the subcommittee, said the fear of the IRS is so great--even in Congress--that some senators have declined to sign the legislation, saying, “I don’t know that I want to flag myself” for an IRS audit.

The bill would place the burden on the IRS to prove that every tax assessment is correct; require the agency to read taxpayers their rights any time there is a dispute, and require prior notice and, in many cases, a hearing, before property is seized.

IRS Commissioner Lawrence B. Gibbs testified in April that the IRS already prohibits promoting on the basis of seizures and collections. Pryor said it is clear that the policy is not being enforced by IRS field offices.


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