In his first congressional appearance since taking the helm at the
IRS in December, Commissioner John Koskinen said he will cooperate
with the six separate investigations into the IRS's missteps last
year, but that he is eager to move forward.
"It doesn't serve my ability to manage the agency to go back in time
and try to look at any particular aspects of the agency," he told
members of the tax-writing House of Representatives Ways and Means
Committee in a hearing.
The worst IRS scandal in years burst into view in May 2013 when a
senior IRS executive issued a public apology for what she called
inappropriate scrutiny applied by IRS staff to some organizations
applying for tax-exempt status.
The organizations were mostly conservative, Tea Party-aligned
non-profit groups. The apology triggered furious accusations by
congressional Republicans that the IRS was deliberately targeting
conservatives for unfair treatment.
The acting chief of the IRS, Steven Miller, resigned. Public
hearings were held on Capitol Hill, where current and former IRS
officials were grilled by Republicans over the affair. It is still
under investigation, though few new facts have emerged in months.
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of using the IRS
to harass conservatives, but no evidence has surfaced tying the
White House to agency scrutiny of such groups.
In contrast to last year's hearings, Koskinen's session in the
Republican-controlled House was relatively polite. Brought in by
President Barack Obama to stabilize the IRS, Koskinen was confirmed
with bipartisan support in the Senate.
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At the hearing, Democrats defended Koskinen and criticized
Republicans for continuing to probe the IRS's past troubles.
Representative Linda Sanchez, a Democrat, accused the Republicans of
"a political witch hunt."
Ways and Means Republicans criticized the IRS for providing
documents to congressional investigators too slowly.
Koskinen told reporters afterward that the IRS has 150 people
working to provide agency documents to investigators.
"In a time of declining resources, it's been a major drain," he said
of the agency's response to inquiries by Congress, the Justice
Department and the IRS's inspector general. "I hope we can get
closure as soon as possible to get it behind us."
Koskinen, 74, is a lawyer with little tax experience. With a
reputation as troubleshooter, he has promised that one of his
priorities is to restore public trust in the IRS.
(Reporting by Patrick Temple-West; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and
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