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PMA Responds to Accusations of Political Interference in IRS Research Audit Investigations

July 13, 2022

If there was improper political interference or bias, we are confident it will be brought to light. 

Washington, D.C.–Executive Director Chad Hooper of the Professional Managers Association (PMA) – formed in 1981 by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Managers as a national membership association representing the interests of professional managers, management officials and non-bargaining unit employees in the federal government and within the IRS – released the following statement regarding alleged political interference into IRS research audits into former FBI director James B. Comey and FBI deputy Andrew McCabe: 

“Trust in government and the rule of law rests on the apolitical delivery of government services and enforcement of federal laws. PMA is confident the vast majority of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees uphold their oath to faithfully and impartially serve the American people. If there was political interference or bias at play in the IRS research audits against Comey and McCabe, we encourage the Service to take necessary action. However, much is still unknown, and we caution lawmakers and the media not to undermine public trust in our tax system based on unfounded assumptions or partial information,” Hooper stated. 

“It is important to understand the procedure the IRS’s Research, Applied Analytics and Statistics Division follows for deciding who to audit. First and foremost, tax returns are subject to a statistical assessment. Anomalous tax returns are flagged for possible audit. A research audit does not imply non-compliance, it merely acknowledges a tax return is particularly unusual and suggests further review by a local IRS field office,” Hooper continued. 

“It is not surprising Comey and McCabe’s tax returns were flagged as anomalous. Comey was a federal employee for nearly 15 years until 2017. The next year, he released a book with sales topping 600,000 in the first week. Similarly, McCabe departed federal service in 2018 and published a book the next year that landed on the New York Times Bestseller list. Needless to say, both individuals’ tax returns likely changed dramatically in a short period of time, making those returns appear unusual. It would be expected for the statistical assessment system to flag their returns for their local IRS field office,” Hooper said.

“Once the tax return has been flagged by the system, an IRS field manager has limited discretion to move forward with a research audit or remove a taxpayer from the sample. When a field manager gets notified about a controversial political figure’s anomalous return, they have two choices: (1) conduct a research audit and face accusations of conducting a politically motivated audit; or (2) forgo conducting an audit and face accusations of going easy on political figures. The IRS manager is left between a rock and a hard place where either way there may be a perception of bias. When news breaks that political figures are audited, the field manager looks bad. If news breaks that the system alerted the field office of a possible anomaly and the office chose not to perform the audit, the field manager looks bad. One might argue the easiest route for a manager to take is to conduct the audit as the statistical assessment suggested,” Hooper explained. 

“PMA continues to advocate for additional training for IRS managers, particularly anti-bias training, to ensure all managers are equipped with the tools to exercise their discretion appropriately. Deciding when to conduct a research audit is not an easy decision and managers must be prepared to make evidence-based decisions,” Hooper concluded. “Finally, while we acknowledge an IRS research audit is a time-consuming and frustrating process, the audit itself is not a finding of wrongdoing or even an implication of noncompliance. It simply means the IRS is reviewing additional records. While an audit may be inconvenient, audits are necessary to ensure the proper enforcement of our nation’s tax laws and we appreciate former director Comey and deputy McCabe for complying in this process. If there was improper political interference or bias, we are confident it will be brought to light and that the IRS will take the appropriate next steps.” 

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