In order for a taxing authority to retain the public trust, if not the public’s respect, the authority must be widely understood to be apolitical and to simply carry out the policy set forth in law. No one likes being taxed but everyone understands that Congress has the power to tax and that by collecting taxes and conducting occasional audits to ensure compliance with the law the IRS is just doing its job as directed by Congress. It’s supposed to work this way year in and year out across administrations regardless of what political party is in power.

Unfortunately, the IRS has lately become a political entity whose activities stretch far beyond the bounds of merely collecting taxes and going after tax cheats. In addition to all of the normal waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars that we now routinely expect out of bloated federal agencies, the IRS has entered the political arena by using its audit and tax exempt status granting powers to wage war on organizations and individuals who oppose the administration.

In recent years the IRS has vigorously gone after right of center political organizations, think tanks, C4 educational organizations, donors to President Obama’s political opponents, and even terminally ill patients who dared to speak up when Obamacare caused them to lose the doctor they liked and the life-saving treatment they were undergoing.

Speak up against the administration one day, get an audit notice the next. Oppose the president’s policies and find your donor list leaked to the public. Donate to the wrong political candidate and find yourself the subject of an audit. Coincidental audits? Not hardly.

This is, plainly speaking, a horrific abuse of power and breach of public trust. Against this backdrop, Americans for Tax Reform has put together a list of the top ten ways in which the IRS has lost the public trust.

1.  Targeting political groups. Under former Commissioner Steven Miller, the IRS was at the center of a scandal for the agency’s abusive scrutiny of tea party, limited government, and free market groups seeking tax-exempt status. The IRS’ targeting of political groups prompted President Obama to deem the actions “intolerable and inexcusable,” the President continued to say, “I have zero tolerance for any action that could undermine public confidence in the impartial and non-partisan administration of the tax code”. Section 108 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act under administrative provisions of the IRS states that, “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the Internal Revenue Service to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs.” The bill also requires that at least $200,000 be used for “intensive training” of the Exempt Organizations Unit to ensure that this unlawful abuse of power does not happen again.

Read the whole thing at ATR here.

Posted January 23, 2014 by Nathanael Ferguson