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   Sunday September 21 4:40 AM EDT 
   
Senate Panel to Examine IRS Inside Out

   By Tabassum Zakaria
   
   WASHINGTON (Reuter) - The Senate Finance Committee is set to present
   the results of a six-month probe into the Internal Revenue Service
   which found a quota system that rewarded agents who brought in the
   cash.
   
   The committee, chaired by Delaware Republican Sen. William Roth, will
   hold three days of hearings next week intended to take a look at the
   tax collection agency from the inside out.
   
   The atmosphere will have a touch of cloak-and-dagger with one panel of
   IRS agents testifying behind a screen to keep their identities secret,
   some using voice distorting equipment. Extra metal detectors will be
   set up outside the hearing room.
   
   The committee investigation began in February after being allotted
   $250,000 for a year to conduct the review. Investigators received
   about 1,000 telephone calls, letters and e-mails from taxpayers and
   IRS agents, and four cases will be presented at the hearings Sept.
   23-25.
   
   "These people have horrendous power, granted by (Congress)...it's
   legitimate, but that's a big amount of power," a committee source, who
   spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
   
   "To be able to take a residence on nothing more than a couple of
   signatures," the source said, referring to the IRS's authority to
   confiscate cars, homes and other property from people who owe taxes.
   
   An IRS spokesman said the agency carried out the law as written by
   Congress and that if mistakes were made, it tried to correct them.
   
   "We hope that these hearings will constitute a fair and open review of
   how the IRS conducts itself in using the tools that the Congress has
   given us," the IRS spokesman said.
   
   "We deal with millions of taxpayers every year, and in the vast
   majority of cases taxpayers feel that they are treated courteously and
   professionally," he added.
   
   In contrast, the investigation found many taxpayers complained the IRS
   did not listen to them and assumed they were guilty and wanted to
   cheat on their tax returns.
   
   The investigation found an apparent quota system in which agents were
   asked to bring in a certain amount of dollars when they went out to
   collect taxes, which led to some stretching the truth on what people
   owed, the committee source said.
   
   Agents were rewarded in their careers if they closed a certain number
   of cases or filed a certain number of levies or liens. That offered
   incentives for agents to close out the easiest cases which tended to
   be people with fewer resources to defend themselves, the committee
   source said.
   
   Another "tip of the iceberg" finding was that some agents used
   falsified credentials so their real names would not be revealed in
   face-to-face situations. Those types of credentials are only supposed
   to be used by the Treasury Department's criminal division, the
   committee source said.
   
   "One of the things that Senator Roth has wanted to emphasize is that
   there are good employees at the IRS," Ginny Flynn, spokeswoman for
   Roth, said.
   
   In fiscal 1996, the IRS received almost 119 million individual tax
   returns and collected almost $1.4 trillion in taxes. At the end of
   last year, there were 15,153 revenue agents who conducted examinations
   and 7,472 revenue officers who did collections.
   
   Roth did not want the hearings to be used for political fodder --
   "this is not a reflection of the administration, this is a cultural
   problem," Flynn said.
   
   However other Republican lawmakers have been using attention on the
   IRS to make political points.
   
   Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as chairman of the National
   Republican Senatorial Committee which raises funds, sent letters
   seeking contributions which said: "...consider this: your tax dollars
   are paying for seminars that teach IRS agents to treat you like a
   criminal!"
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   Earlier Related Stories
     * Senate Panel to Examine IRS Inside Out - Sat Sep 20 11:36 pm
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