WHAT'S THE I.R.S. TRYING TO HIDE?
January 19, 2006
To prevent abuse, the public must have a steady stream of facts and figures on how the Internal Revenue Service collects taxes. But after years of providing such data, the I.R.S. is now balking, says the New York Times.
A motion filed recently in federal court asserts that the agency is defying a longstanding court order requiring it to release audit statistics. The information in question shows how thoroughly the I.R.S. audits corporations and rich taxpayers compared with others, how much time it spends on audits, and how much additional tax is recommended. The figures are crucial in gauging the agency's fairness, efficiency and effectiveness, says the Times.
The motion was filed by Susan Long, who teaches statistics at Syracuse University.
- In 1974, while writing her dissertation, Long sued the I.R.S. for access to agency statistics.
- In 1976, she won an order entitling her to the audit data on an ongoing basis.
- Today, much of what the public knows about the I.R.S. is based on data she has gathered and, since 1992, posted online at trac.syr.edu.
In May 2004, the I.R.S. refused to release figures Long had requested. The timing was curious. A month earlier, she had posted data showing sharply fewer corporate audits in 2003 and had critically contrasted the data with public comments in early 2004 by the I.R.S. commissioner, Mark Everson, about cracking down on corporate wrongdoing. The I.R.S. says the events aren't connected.
First, the agency told Long that it was under no obligation to provide the data. Reminded of the court order, the I.R.S. now says Long's requests have become excessive and could inadvertently reveal the identities of taxpayers. Long simply asks the court to enforce its order. She deserves to prevail again, says the Times.
Source: Editorial, "What Is the I.R.S. Trying To Hide?" the New York Times, January, 17, 2006.
For text (subscription required):
Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues