The IRS allows its agents to use fake names when they contact taxpayers, according to a congressional report Friday that found the pseudonyms can create a tense and potentially harassing system.
The House Judiciary Committee documented a case in Ohio where an IRS agent showed up at a taxpayer’s home unannounced, lied about his name and the reason for his visit, refused to leave when told to do so by the woman’s lawyer, threatened to freeze the taxpayer’s assets and then filed a complaint against the police when they responded.
Police found the man’s behavior so strange that they initially concluded he was an impostor. It was only after they contacted the IRS‘ inspector general that they learned the man was a real agent using a fake name, “Agent Bill Haus.”
Making the situation more bizarre, the woman didn’t actually owe anything — a fact the IRS confirmed to her after the intrusive visit.
A major in the Marion Police Department told the committee he “found this entire situation odd.”
The woman was so traumatized that she thought the agent might “break into her house,” the major reported to Congress.
“She is truly in fear of this man. What is more concerning, she had contacted the IRS, verified she has a zero balance and she indicates that the person she spoke with on the phone has no idea why an agent would be coming to her home,” said the major, whose name was redacted in the report.
The Judiciary Committee released the account of the visit as part of an inquiry into “weaponization” of the IRS.
The investigation explored another unannounced IRS visit paid to Matt Taibbi, a journalist who exposed government efforts to censor opposing viewpoints made on social media. That unannounced visit came the same day Mr. Taibbi was testifying to Congress.
The Republican investigation also revealed that the IRS was so eager to target Mr. Taibbi that it opened its investigation on Christmas Eve, which was also a Saturday, just three weeks after he broke his first story about what has come to be known as the “Twitter Files.”
As with the woman in Ohio, it turned out Mr. Taibbi didn’t owe the IRS anything and in fact was due a refund he had not yet been paid.
The committee report said those stories should be concerning given the tens of billions of dollars Democrats in Congress pumped into the IRS in last year’s budget-climate bill.
“No American should fall victim to deception from their own government to threaten and pressure them into submission,” the committee report said. “The details that the committee and select subcommittee gathered about IRS abuses are shocking examples of the federal government’s weaponization.”
The Washington Times has contacted the IRS for this report.
Agency officials have already made some changes to policy, including an order generally prohibiting revenue agents from making unannounced visits.
Congressional Republicans said that policy change was a result of the GOP’s investigation.
“Pressure and oversight about these abusive field visits led the IRS to repeal its policy of allowing its agents to conduct unannounced field visits to taxpayers’ homes. The IRS is no longer able to weaponize its field visits to target, harass and intimidate taxpayers,” the report said.
New IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said banning the visits would “improve overall safety for taxpayers and IRS employees.”
But the committee report questioned that, saying the IRS has never produced evidence that its own agents were endangered.