By now, everyone is familiar with the IRS illegally targeting limited-government organizations that applied for non-profit status. Despite the plethora of committee hearings, task forces and investigations formed to reveal the underlying cause of the IRS fiasco, it is still unclear how this travesty occurred.
However, what is clear—these audits intimidated and incurred costs on upstart free market groups who have few resources to fight the overreach of the IRS.
For instance, in the Detroit News, President of Union Conservatives Terry Bowman wrote of his own travails in dealing with an improper IRS audit:
“In 2011, I submitted an IRS application to become a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization because that designation grants anonymity and protections to future donors — important to those workers nervous about union retaliation for supporting my group.
After a year of waiting and some bizarre questions from the IRS, we finally became an authorized 501(c)4 nonprofit in 2012. But the ordeal had left us in debt. Perhaps that was one of the IRS’ goals: hoping small groups like mine would collapse from the financial strain.”
To add insult to injury to individuals like Terry Bowman and others who comprise the targeted free-market groups; their tax dollars finance IRS union employees’ representation when they are audited as a condition of employment.
How does this happen?
Section 7131 of Title 5, United States Code authorizes federal union “official time.” This is the practice of federal agencies granting federal union employees paid time off from their assigned government tasks to represent union interests.
Around nine pages of the National Treasury Employee Union’s (NTEU) collective bargaining agreement with the IRS cover the various “appropriate” uses of official time. One such activity, which is especially egregious in light of the IRS targeting scandal, grants official time for “tax audits of unit employees that are conditions of employment when the employees request representation.”
Not only that, but NTEU IRS employees receive a letter that alerts them of their privilege of taxpayer supported representation when audited. Section 188.8.131.52.5 (03-04-2013) of the Internal Revenue Manual asserts that when conducting an employee tax return examination, the auditor must send out “Form 8111, Employee Notification Regarding Union Representation, with the initial contact letter provided to bargaining unit employees and attempt to secure a signed copy before the initial interview takes place. The Form 8111 is used to secure the employee’s acknowledgement that he or she has been advised of his or her right to union representation during the interview pursuant to 5 USC 7114(a)(2)(B).”
Worse, if the culprits within the IRS responsible for targeting free-market groups are apprehended, taxpayers will pay for their union representation then, too.
The NTEU contract grants official time for union stewards to represent employees during oral replies to notices of unacceptable performance actions. In addition, when management investigates IRS employees, and it may result in disciplinary actions, official time is granted to union stewards.
Luckily, the legislative solution to this outrageous subsidy to government unions already exists in the House and Senate. Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Federal Employee Accountability Act S.785/H.R. 107, which would eliminate the practice of union official time in the federal government.
One can only hope that the continuing IRS scandal will buoy the prospects of such common sense legislation.