Finally, the IRS seems to have called in the big guns on its much belabored IRS Whistleblower Program. After receiving the attention of Senator Grassley (R – Iowa) (who recently wrote a letter to the IRS Whistleblower Office expressing his “extreme disappointment in the management of the program”) the media, and other groups, the spotlight on the program’s ineffectiveness thus far might finally have gotten bright enough to be uncomfortable.
For example a Forbes’ article, by whistleblower expert Erika Kelton, included statistics such as how the IRS has only paid a single whistleblower since the program began operating five years ago and how the program has received dozens of submissions involving tax losses greater than $100 million. Just like Senator Grassley, Forbes’ identified the real problem as “the IRS itself and institutional resistance to whistleblowers within the IRS that is hobbling the whistleblower program and draining its enormous promise.”
In mid-May, The Wall Street Journal reported The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, a Treasury Department watchdog group, report that found “deficiencies in IRS controls and response time for resolving whistleblower claims.” Earlier today, watchdog group All Gov reported that the “IRS whistleblower unit contains only 35 staff members, who are forced to rely on already overworked auditors to pursue leads.”
You get the idea – lots of negative press from every side. Attention like that is hard to ignore.
Well now, there is a reason to hope that the IRS Whistleblower Office might finally get its act together. Yesterday, the Department of the Treasury, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement Steven T. Miller issued a “field directive” whose subject is the “IRS Whistleblower Program.” The memo first explains that “the whistleblower information can be an important tool in our compliance programs.” Of course! This is why it was established in the first place! And then, and this is the exciting part:
“My office is working with the Whistleblower Office and with internal and external stakeholders on a comprehensive review of operating guidelines and procedures. The object of the review is to improve the timeliness and quality of decisions as the Service evaluates and acts on whistleblower information.”
Believe it or not, it gets better. The highlights of promised improvements are specific deadlines for initial evaluation, 90 days, and that meetings with whistleblowers will now become the “rule not the exception.” The memo concludes with a paragraph explaining how oversight will work and asking for cooperation in making the whistleblower program better “so that the Service can take full advantage of whistleblower information in our compliance programs.”
And that, my friends, is some good news (finally!) for current and future IRS whistleblowers.
Steven N. Berk is a former US Attorney with experience filing IRS Whistleblower claims. If you have information about tax fraud and are interested in participating in the IRS whistleblower program please contact him for a free consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 232 – 7550.