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IRS employee suspended for Obama reelection effort

It was another bad week for the Internal Revenue Service.

First, it was revealed that one of the tax agency's workers faced disciplinary action for improper political activities while on the job.

Then judges in two lawsuits against the IRS have demanded that the agency provide official explanations of missing emails that might be tied to the continuing nonprofit tax status problems.

First the politicking worker.

Out-of-line Obama phone chant: It's not the political involvement that Republican members of Congress have been searching for, but one Internal Revenue Service employee did use his official position to push for the president's re-election.

No campaigning warning tape via dbphotosDoing so is a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from, among other things, promoting candidates for political office while on duty and in the workplace.

That's precisely what this IRS customer service agent, who wasn't named by Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigators, did back in 2012.

And his on-the-job campaigning for Obama has netted the IRS worker a 100-day suspension without pay.

The OSC's investigation into the complaint found that when taking taxpayer calls on an IRS customer service help line, "the employee repeatedly urged taxpayers to reelect President Obama by delivering a chant based on the spelling of the employee's last name."

"[T]he IRS employee acknowledged that he had used his authority and influence as an IRS customer service representative for a political purpose and did so while at work," according to the OSC.

'Out of control' IRS: Rep. Charles W. Boustany, Jr. (R-Louisiana), chair of the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, wasted no time in blasting the IRS as being "totally out of control."

"The IRS' credibility depends on its perception as a nonpartisan, unbiased institution," Boustany said in a statement. "This latest development exposes a culture that tolerates or even encourages politically motivated activities, contrary to the agency's mission and purpose."

He also called the worker's actions inexcusable and urged the agency, in order to "preserve what little credibility it has with the American people," to immediately terminate the employee and conduct an internal review into the matter.

The suspended employee is just the latest in a long list of IRS faux pas.

Courts get in on the IRS whacking act: Also last week, two federal judges ordered the IRS to provide more information on former IRS official Lois Lerner's missing emails.

Lerner is a central figure in Congressional investigations (and conspiracy theories) into whether the IRS' review of applications for 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax status was politically motivated.

On July 10, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington ordered the IRS to declare under oath how some of Lerner's emails went missing. The agency's formal explanation must be made by Aug. 11.

Sullivan's ruling was in response to a lawsuit that Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, filed against the agency.

The next day, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he wants details on the disposition of Lerner's computer hard drive. It was a crash of the machine, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told House committees, that led to the loss of some of the former head of the Exempt Organizations unit's electronic communications.

The hard drive subsequently was destroyed, said Koskinen. Walton said he wants a sworn affidavit about the process by the end of next week.

Walton's order came in True The Vote's lawsuit against the IRS. The conservative group sued the IRS over delays in its application for tax-exempt status.

Audit issues for IRS: Meanwhile, the IRS also is apparently having difficulty in some of its more mundane IRS activities.

Bankrate Taxes Blog iconAs I noted last week at my other tax blog, a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation found that the IRS has been doing a terrible job of managing correspondence audits.

In conducting many of these most common of audits, the GAO said the IRS provided taxpayers "unrealistic" time frames on when the agency would respond to the information it requested.

On a lighter and tastier note at Bankrate last week, I also looked into the possible tax implications of Kickstarter fund raising. The crowdsourced money in question? More than $44,000 to go toward making a bowl of potato salad.

Yes, the Internet has truly made all our lives more ... interesting.

My additional tax thoughts for Bankrate Taxes Blog are usually published each Tuesday and Thursday. If you miss them there, check here at the ol' blog the following weekend for a synopsis and links.

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