Our Government is Out of Control and It Needs to Be Fixed

Bruce Bialosky
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Posted: Oct 09, 2016 12:28 AM

Ever since President Kennedy approved legalization of federal unions and then followed with the massive expansion of the federal government (which has occurred under both Republicans and Democrats), our government has become ever more invasive.  If we elect Hillary Clinton she will make things worse. Here is the story of why we need to do this so badly.

This started with a simple tax filing.  A client of mine wanted to apply as an innocent spouse.  That is when you want to absolve yourself of any responsibility for tax returns filed because your spouse inordinately controls all the financial aspects of your relationship -- particularly the tax filings.  Thus, the innocent spouse has no legal obligation for any taxes due.  My client met the standards and we filed the form.  The IRS told us they could take nine months to get back to us.

I received a call from an IRS agent who wanted to meet with me regarding my filing.  She indicated that was the reason she wanted the meeting.  I provided her a power of attorney which was only for the one issue – innocent spouse.  She indicated there was some question about one year on the power of attorney, but she came to my office anyway.  I was quite surprised the IRS wanted to address the issue at the time because it had only been two months -- much quicker than the nine months previously indicated.

When the agent got to my office she soon shifted her focus of discussion to demanding a copy of the couple’s marriage certificate.  She stated (as an aside) she would recommend approval of the innocent spouse application and moved back to asking for the marriage certificate.  It became apparent the IRS was going after the other spouse for something.  I told her that my client getting the IRS the marriage certificate was a serious inconvenience and she should pursue the spouse.  She got really upset with me and started to storm out when I asked for her supervisor’s info (she provided) and I asked for her card to which said she did not have one.  I spoke to the supervisor who gave me some solace, but the entire situation left me unsettled.

Over the weekend, I thought back about all the discussions with the two IRS people.  It was the most disjointed interaction I have had with the IRS during my 38 years of working with them.  The fact the agent did not have a card, and neither the agent nor the supervisor had normal messages on their voice mail identifying them as IRS employees, now made me think that possibly the entire matter was a hoax perpetrated by my taxpayer’s spouse to gain information regarding his estranged spouse. He had money and he might just do something like that.

I spoke to the IRS supervisor and asked to speak to his boss.  This person’s voice mail actually identified herself as an IRS employee.  When we spoke I laid out to her the series of facts that made me believe her staff person was acting improperly; i.e., that the staff person had told me she was there regarding the one matter, but was really in my office to gain other information for which I was not made aware.  I made clear what she had demanded and her request for the marriage certificate was inordinate and not even within the scope of my power of attorney.  She stated she would get back to me.

The Big Boss got back to me a week later and informed me that her staff person had indeed misled me.  She was on a third-party document information search regarding the spouse.  The Big Boss stated that she was not even sure why the request had been made for the marriage certificate (which had blown up into a dispute between the agent and me, causing the degeneration of the situation) because she could just request it from the county clerk.  

That is when matters turned even worse.  I asked whether the agent was being properly admonished for her behavior of lying to me about why she was in my office. I was told by the Big Boss she could not tell me about that.  I asked whether she could tell me whether anything was even being done.  She told me she could not tell me that.  She stated the IRS agent has rights.  The Big Boss told me she had faith the agent was going to recommend approval for the innocent spouse application.  I asked for a copy of the recommendation.  I was told I could not have that.  I told her I wanted to file a complaint about her regarding the entire situation.  Then I told her I would not file that complaint if she provided me a copy of the letter recommending the approval of the innocent spouse application.  She told me she would not even protect her agent against the complaint by giving me the letter. 

I called the number the Big Boss gave me at the Inspector General’s (IG) office of the Treasury Department.  Unlike no other prior experience dealing with the government, someone answered the phone promptly.  They took the information I provided and told me someone would be back to me.

Again, unusually, someone contacted me promptly.  Rick Bravo called and took the information I relayed above.  He was very responsible and responsive.  He sent me an email giving me my case number.  I called him a few days later to ask him what the next step was and he indicated that was it for me.  I asked him whether I would find out what happened with the IRS agent that had intentionally misled me. He said I could file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. 

I found that to be unacceptable.  I would never find out what happened. I would have to complete more paperwork and then someone who shows up to work on Tuesday afternoons will eventually process my request and provide me a spoonful of information.  So I asked to speak to his boss.

That conversation went horribly.  Bravo’s boss was defensive and condescending.  He told me to file a FOIA request.  I asked him why I could not know whether the agent was even addressed.  He told me as a CPA I should be familiar with the Privacy Act.  I asked him if he meant the Privacy Act of 1974 and he verified that.  I said I accept that act might protect the discussions with the agent, but it did not protect telling me that there was a process and it had been completed, and I asked him to cite where in the act that was protected.  He made a hostile reply.  I stated I was going to quote him in a column on that, to which he said “Are you threatening me?”  I replied that I am a journalist and I did not know that telling a public employee he would be quoted was a threat.

Here we are.  An IRS agent comes into my office, wastes my time and purposely misleads me as to why she was in my office.  I find that out and file a complaint against her.  I am told the only way I can find out anything is by filing a FOIA request (that this government has significantly ignored for years).  And then a supervisor in the Treasury IG’s office asks if I am threatening him by telling him I am going to quote him. 

If you don’t think this country needs a major change in path and change in leadership, the only thing I can say is you are living in denial.