A group called TIGTA has reportedly found that Internal Revenue Service workers targeted nonprofits associated with the tea party and groups involved in “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” So what is this mysterious whistle-blowing agency?
TIGTA, or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, has a special position in the Treasury Department—it audits the IRS. Basically, it's the IRS of the IRS.
The fallout from the leaked TIGTA report has been swift and sudden, with conservative groups demanding a congressional investigation. On Monday, President Barack Obama said if the allegations were true, they were “outrageous” and the people involved would be “held fully accountable."
Reuters and other news outlets obtained parts of the report over the weekend. It will be released publicly and in full this week.
On Friday, Lois Lerner, the director of exempt organizations for the IRS, acknowledged the "inappropriate" targeting of some groups by the IRS for closer scrutiny on their nonprofit applications.
Lerner said the behavior was limited to a Cincinnati branch office and that no applications that were targeted for closer inspection were denied.
The language in the draft said that groups that were also targeted included those with mission statements such as advancing “political action type organizations involved in limiting or expanding government, educating on the Constitution and Bill Of Rights, [and] social economic reform/movement[s].”
TIGTA functions as a watchdog group whose mission is to “provide integrated audit, investigative, and inspection and evaluation services that promote economy, efficiency, and integrity in the administration of the Internal Revenue laws.”
Among its goals are protecting the safety of IRS employees; determining fraud, waste, and abuse at the IRS; and informing the people, Congress, and the Treasury secretary about problems at the IRS.
The idea of an IRS watchdog didn’t originate with the Founding Fathers or even the early version of the IRS that dates back to the Civil War era.
TIGTA was established in January 1999 as part of the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 to provide independent oversight of IRS activities.
It assumed most responsibilities held by the IRS's former Inspection Service, which was established in 1952 as part of the creation of the modern Internal Revenue Service under the direction of President Harry Truman.
Prior to that, the IRS was run using a patronage system, and the reorganization in 1952 put career professionals in charge of the service.
Under its current mandate, TIGTA has broad powers to make sure the $2 trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a T) handled by the IRS is accounted for.
Related Link: All about TIGTA
In addition to its power to audit the IRS, TIGTA has the power to conduct investigations. Once a problem is identified by its Office of Investigations, a special agent will investigate claims, and if warranted will refer them to the Justice Department or local authorities for prosecution.
All investigations concerning IRS employees are referred to IRS management for administrative action if misconduct is found.
TIGTA is part of the Treasury Department, but it also testifies before Congress on certain matters.
J. Russell George is the current Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. He was nominated to the post in 2004 by President George W. Bush and approved by the U.S. Senate.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa was among those who requested a TIGTA report after allegations that some nonprofits were seeing application approval delays.
Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of the National Constitution Center.
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