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OPINION - A bigger scandal

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) “The Power to tax is the power to destroy.”  Daniel Webster’s quote from 1798 is even more true today.

Consider: If the IRS claims you owe taxes, the first legal challenge is in front of an IRS administrative law judge… the IRS as prosecutor and judge. It’s one of the few legal proceedings where you have to prove your innocence; that you don’t owe the taxes they say you do. And the discretionary judgments the IRS makes in your case, like whether your home office really is one, or whether a business expense is legitimate, are presumed to be correct. If you lose, your next stop is federal appeals court – where you have the uphill fight of getting a ruling against you overturned.

This is why the almost always universal advice for people facing an audit is to negotiate a settlement if possible. The IRS has unlimited resources for lawsuits. and broad investigatory and collection powers. The little guy is at an overwhelming disadvantage.

That’s why the IRS targeting Tea-Party and conservative groups is chilling. None of these groups’ treasuries could survive an audit. They’d be financially wiped out. Take away their money, and how effective would these groups be at getting their message out?

That’s why the IRS cannot be used as a political tool. Liberals who want to target Tea Party groups need to fear that conservatives could target Code Pink or Planned Parenthood.

To me, this is a bigger scandal than Benghazi. Really? Why? Four people died when our consulate came under attack. But this is a case of incompetence. No one at the State Department or in the Obama Administration wanted this to happen. There appears to be a cover-up… because of poor judgement.

What happened with the IRS is different. This is a scandal with intent – the goal is to silence groups with a specific point of view by using the tax code against them. Keep an eye on how high up this goes. It’s an important story. Alas, the Benghazi story, which probably goes nowhere, will probably get more coverage.

Chris Conley