Mar 31st 2011
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After 30 years with the IRS, 25 of them as a special agent with the criminal investigation division, Al Drucker has heard just about everything when it comes to tax cheats.
The information often comes from "the three exes," as he puts it: ex-spouses, ex-friends, and ex-employees. "When someone else knows about what you've done it will always come back to haunt you."
Hearing complaints is one thing, but translating talk into action is quite another. Most people are extremely reluctant to interact with the IRS, even anonymously, Drucker says.
Enter TaxSqueal.com. Drucker launched the Web site in June to give informants an easier, anonymous and no-cost way to send their tax cheat information to the federal government. Typical complaints involve undocumented workers, "under the table" payments, or two sets of books.
Complaining directly to the IRS involves calling a hotline with a message that points the caller to www.irs.gov to find a form, "which is not written in plain language," filling it out, and mailing it in. Drucker, of Manalapan, NJ, said his motivation is to help ease the process. "I'm just a conduit."
Drucker does no investigating of TaxSqueal.com complaints himself – he's retired after all. He scrubs all information about the informer from his computer system and forwards the complaints to the IRS. As a former employee, he is aware of the financial and staffing restraints the IRS operates under, not to mention the challenges of fraud investigations. "Informants can point you in a specific direction," he said "They really are an important source of leads."
Drucker isn't making any money and isn't collecting any whistleblower rewards, although advertisers may want a presence on his Web site down the road. The federal government rewards whistleblowers with a portion of tax collections in some cases, but Drucker says, "If you're looking for a reward, this isn't the site for you."
Complaints came in slowly at first, but are picking up speed, in part because it is tax season and in part because his site has received some publicity. The allegations run the gamut. Everyone from federal officials to next-door neighbors is targeted.
Drucker estimates that a quarter of the complaints come from well-intentioned citizens. "Some of it is pure disgust on the part of taxpayers who see others skating and getting away with something that is blatantly wrong." The other 75 percent have an ax to grind, he said. Drucker makes no judgment, passing on the information to the IRS service center in Fresno, CA, where complaints are farmed out to field offices across the country.
"There's no part of me that is anti-IRS," says Drucker, who is proud of his long career with the agency. "This isn't done to say they're doing a terrible job."
He hasn't heard any feedback from the IRS itself, but he said, "I cannot imagine they would be disappointed. Any information that could lead to the collection of taxes is a good thing."