IG letter to Geithner: Targeting not among top concerns
May 18th, 2013
07:45 PM ET
11 months ago

IG letter to Geithner: Targeting not among top concerns

(CNN) - Treasury officials were made aware in June 2012 that the IRS inspector general was reviewing the office that handles tax-exempt applications, but a letter from October shows that the inspector general did not highlight the audit as a top concern for the agency.

In a memo dated October 15, 2012, to then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about IRS challenges for 2013, Inspector General J. Russell George noted other problem areas, but made no mention of the investigation taking place at the time of the agency's intense scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Instead, the memo stated that "while the Exempt Organizations function has greatly improved its timeliness with regard to acknowledging complaints against tax-exempt organizations, referrals were not always controlled or processed timely."

A spokesperson for the inspector general told CNN this letter was intended to single out what George considered to be the most serious issues for the IRS among all the cases listed in the IG's annual audit, which had already been published.

A spokesperson for the Treasury Department said the current treasury secretary, Jack Lew, and his deputy first learned of the audit’s findings from press reports last week.

The inspector general made headlines Friday when he told the House Ways and Means Committee that he had notified Treasury officials, including Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin, as early as June 2012 that he was reviewing the office that handles tax-exempt applications.

CNN has confirmed that notification came in early June.

According to George, he told Treasury that he was conducting a review but did not disclose the nature of the findings. He said the review was prompted by a request from someone he described as a congressional staff member.

"It was not to inform them of the results of the audit, it was to inform them of the fact that we were conducting the audit," George later clarified.

A Treasury official, who discussed the matter on the condition of not being identified, told CNN that when Wolin learned of the review he did not discuss it with anyone outside the Treasury Department. The same official said Treasury strongly supports the "the independent oversight of its three inspectors general, and it does not interfere in ongoing IG audits." In other words, the political appointees who run Treasury do not take action until such audits are complete.

According to the Treasury official, it wasn't until mid-March of this year that anyone inside the department was informed of the targeting at the office of tax-exempt programs.

That’s when the inspector general discussed a draft audit with one or more staff-level Treasury officials. In April, George first gave Treasury staff a copy of the draft audit and that information was not shared with the treasury secretary or his deputy.

According to officials at both the inspector general and Treasury offices, Lew knew an audit was taking place because George mentioned it during an introductory meeting on March 15, 2013, but he had no window into the results.

Lew was confirmed as Treasury secretary in late February.

The inspector general for the IRS is one of three inspector generals who report to the Treasury and conducts approximately 120 audits per year.


Filed under: 2013 • IRS • Treasury
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. br

    Who cares need to the need to focus on bringing more jobs to the us feel me

    May 19, 2013 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  2. br

    Who cares the goverment needs to focus on bringing more jobs to the us

    May 19, 2013 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  3. Bob Hobbs

    FLAT TAX, anyone?

    May 19, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  4. Ira Dernotsei

    "A spokesperson for the Treasury Department said the current treasury secretary, Jack Lew, and his deputy first learned of the audit’s findings from press reports last week."

    Where to begin, where to begin. Is it more troubling that the Treasury Department learns about IRS problems from drive-by media, or that the drive-by media upon which it relies is a bunch of left wing political hacks posing as journalists? Bet Hitler and Mussolini are rolling over in their graves that Obama should have such an easy time with the Press as he pushes his tyrannical social-fascism forward. Statists never had it so good!

    May 19, 2013 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  5. WallyG

    "Not a top priority" because it was a sanctioned operation by the Schumer led DSCC, the DNC, Obama and George Soros funded attack organizations in a concentrated, coordinated effort to suppress the vote of the opposition after the massive landslide losses of 2010! Obama knew because he's the recipient of the benefits of that effort!

    May 19, 2013 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  6. OBAMASUX

    Of course Turbo Tax Ted did not highlight the inspection of felony7 wrongdoing at the IRS.....his boss BO said not to.

    May 19, 2013 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  7. J.V.Hodgson

    These oversight committees do lead to precipitate actions being taken, i.e the firing of the deputy comissioner who then spitefully to protect his own ass implicates the white house but wont say where, nor will he say who in the IRS was responsible for these delays or excessive interrogatory questions to the applicants.
    Reading the full story above certain managers and staff members in the IRS got out of hand and over zealous. If my understanding of the duties of oversight, is to fix what went wrong here. regrettably It will try to chase down non existent presidential involvement or White House involvement.
    A major initial question for me is: What the IG told Oversight or Treasury and when and when that report was finalised in the sense of this specific issue re delay re 501(c) 4 applications.
    Presumably IG reports in any agency or whatever are routinely copied to oversight committees unless national security issues are involved. Not the case here.
    So called righteous indigniation has its place but only when you have investigated and got all the facts then you can not speculate any conspiracy you can identify it and prove it OR NOT as the case maybe.
    In terms of our nations current problems these are storms in a teacup.
    The economy, jobs, budget deficits, debt and immigration/ gun control efforts should be occupying media blogs 80 % instead of this nonsense re Benghazi, IRS, and A&P, occupying the 80 %
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    May 19, 2013 03:14 am at 3:14 am |
  8. Sheila

    And the reason the IG made no mention of it was because it was a verbal agreement between the White House and the IRS. An order to bully those on the enemies list. Just like Nixon did.

    May 19, 2013 03:45 am at 3:45 am |
  9. CurmudgeonTx

    I find it quite convenient that liberal groups were fast laned while conservative groups were roadblocked...on an Election year...

    May 19, 2013 04:01 am at 4:01 am |
  10. CurmudgeonTx

    First attempt moderated:

    I find it quite convenient that liberal groups were rushed to the front of the line while conservative groups were roadblocked...on an Election year...

    May 19, 2013 04:01 am at 4:01 am |
  11. Stan M.

    I think it's time to rewrite the tax code and remove all inequalities with a flat tax.
    Giving tax exemptions to anyone is not only a clear violation of the Equal Protections clause, it amounts to a direct government subsidy to whoever is getting the exemption.
    And when the subsidy is to a religious organization, it also violates the Separation clause in a most egregious way.
    Without any nonsense like exemptions to worry about, the IRS will be able to do a much better job with a lot fewer headaches.

    May 19, 2013 04:19 am at 4:19 am |
  12. Alvin Cavanaugh

    This whole mess just makes me sick. The same old Washinton way of handeling corruption in Government. Keep on passing the buck around until somebody everybody has been trying to get rid of, loses thier job. Does anyone in thier right mind really believe that we will ever get to the bottom of this??

    May 19, 2013 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  13. Anonymous

    get rid of the irs and go flat tax

    May 19, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  14. Sarah/VA

    God punishes the wicked,hateful,liars & racist so republican/teaparties becareful,dont play with GOD

    May 19, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    No one cares whether they are doing the right thing, under any part of this administration.

    May 19, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  16. king

    can someone tell me why would a repub led IRS target his own party groups? this republican who led the IRS has some moral and sense of responsibility. he saw the enormous rush of applications of tea party groups coming from out of the wood work to sign up for tax exempt status. he knew these groups wasn't for the civil enhancements, their only purpose was to overthrow the government, because of the first colored president in history. this repub head of the IRS, did not target the conservatives, because their wasn't liberal groups applying for that exempt status at the same time the tea party and so called patriot were doing at the time. so its just the law of proportion. if their is a bunch of one side filing applications at one time, and almost no applications filed by the other side, of course it will seem that one side is being targeted, i am sure if they did the maths of how many liberals filed, and how much conservatives, it will come out equal when they use the laws of proportions. furthermore this repub head of the IRS, must have thought that these groups were a danger to the president of the united state, just by their rederic, of taking back their government, and Obama is the devil, and more crazy off the wall crap they were spewing, and still spewing.

    May 19, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  17. DeDude

    The are supposed to target political groups, because those groups should not be granted tax free status. The problem was that in their rush to deal with a huge increase in applications from right wing groups, they made a list of terms that didn't contain left wing "code words". That profiling might have made sense in practical terms (the deluge of applications trying to sneak into undeserved tax free status came from the right, not the left), but it was really stupid in political terms.

    May 19, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  18. GI Joe

    If thousands sent in applications, and out of those thousands, 20 were democrat and the rest had the word Tea or whatever in them, which do you think had the most audits? DUH.

    May 19, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  19. uncdig

    the walls of deniabilty are beginning to crumble. It seems in the Obama Administration, nothing every goes to the bosses until after becomes public. Seems they prefer a Don't ask, Don't tell mentality in their leadership of our country's government. Or is it possible that our government has bcome so big & bloated that nobody knows or wants to know what is going on? This second term is a far cry from the promises & pledges that Obama made about how he would lead.

    May 19, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  20. D45

    My question is this. Who ordered the targeting, and why is it no one knows anything....What sort of idiots are running the IRS, DOJ, etc....None of the heads of those agencies knows anything.....Eric Holder is the worst of them...He knew nothing about Fast and Furious and now knows nothing about the illegal confiscation of records from the AP,,,,if he is not running DOJ who is? And in the end OBAMA is responsible, he appointed all those idiots..

    May 19, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  21. Gurgyl

    Nothing wrong in targeting tax cheats.

    May 19, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  22. Marie MD

    Where was the oversight committee and the car thief/illegal gun owner who runs it when the shrub's administration went after the NAACP?
    But of course, silent as a mouse!

    May 19, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  23. Tom

    There is unbelievable Liberal bias in the media. The Democrat Party "owns" the main stream media. Can you imagine what would happen if the IRS was targeting Public Sector Unions? There would be millions marching in the streets. Can you imagine if the IRS was targeting the NAACP? Buildings would be burned to the ground,

    May 19, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  24. jag

    More Jack Booted Thugs.
    Call off the Dogs Mr President! this is how a country like Kenya operates, not the US

    May 19, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  25. bankrupt1

    we're going down the tubes fast. $120 will barely fill a grocery bag with groceries. Fuel is outrageous. Nobody can afford a $30,000 car, a $125,000 house, a $150,000 student loan at 8% interest (you lose benefits if you consolidate), and food. so...we're toast. Good that we did all of that nation building somewhere else, but does no good here.

    May 19, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
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