IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller Resigns Over Scandal

May 16th 2013
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By Jason Bramwell

Steven Miller, a twenty-five-year veteran of the IRS who has been the agency's acting commissioner since November 2012, resigned from his post on May 15, less than a week after the IRS admitted to and apologized for improperly scrutinizing the federal tax-exempt status of conservative groups.

In a brief press conference at the White House Wednesday evening, President Obama stated that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had requested – and accepted – the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS.

"It's important to institute new leadership that will help restore confidence in the American people", the president said.

Obama called the IRS'actions "inexcusable" and said Americans have a right to be angry about it.

"I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this behavior in any agency, but especially the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has over our lives", said the president, who added",I'll do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again."

The IRS apologized on May 10 for what it calls "inappropriate" targeting of groups that had conservative titles, such as "tea party" or "patriot", in their names to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. 

According to a report released on May 14 by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), inappropriate criteria that was developed and implemented by the IRS Determinations Unit in Cincinnati remained in place for more than eighteen months, in part, due to insufficient oversight provided by management. This resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications and allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued.

The Determinations Unit is responsible for reviewing applications as they're received to determine whether an organization qualifies for tax-exempt status.

 "Although the processing of some applications with potential significant political campaign intervention was started soon after receipt, no work was completed on the majority of these applications for thirteen months", the report states. "For the 296 total political campaign intervention applications TIGTA reviewed as of December 17, 2012, 108 had been approved, twenty-eight were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some for more than three years and crossing two election cycles [2010 congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election])." 

In March 2012, as IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, Miller asked an advisor to look into concerns raised by the media about delays in processing tea party groups' applications for tax-exempt status, according to the report. 

In an op-ed published by the USA Today on May 13, Miller wrote that the IRS should have done a better job of handling the influx of applications by advocacy organizations.

"There was a shortcut taken in our processes to determine which groups needed additional review. The mistakes we made were due to the absence of a sufficient process for working the increase in cases and a lack of sensitivity to the implications of some of the decisions that were made", wrote Miller, who added that the mistakes "were in no way due to any political or partisan motivation."

In his resignation letter, which was obtained by CNN, Miller told IRS employees he will be leaving the agency in early June.

"This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days, and there is a strong and immediate need to restore public trust in the nation's tax agency", he wrote. "I believe the [IRS] will benefit from having a new acting commissioner in place during this challenging period."

Attorney General Eric Holder announced on May 14 that the Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether any laws were broken by the IRS.

President Obama said Wednesday evening that new safeguards will be implemented at the IRS immediately "so this kind of behavior cannot happen again."

"Our administration has to make sure that we are working hand-in-hand with Congress to get this thing fixed", Obama said. "Democrats and Republicans owe it to the people to treat that authority with the responsibility it deserves and in a way that doesn't smack of politics or partisan agendas. The good news is it's fixable, and it's in everyone's best interest to work together to fix it."

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