IRS executives in districts from Florida to the Pacific Northwest have focused so intently on enforcement goals that they have put taxpayer rights at risk in the collection process, according to a report released this week by the agency.
The report concluded that IRS officials in 12 districts violated the law when they issued guidance that encouraged sharing enforcement quotas and results at the group level.
"As a result, the environment at the front-line level is heavily focused on management's priority of achieving enforcement goals ... and this has placed taxpayers at risk of abridgment of their rights," the report said.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti, who took over at the troubled agency two months ago, said he was "especially troubled by the possibility that this situation has resulted in violation of taxpayer rights."
"This report demonstrates that the agency has failed to strike the proper balance between providing customer service and fair enforcement of the tax law," Rossotti said. "It shows that the IRS has put too much emphasis on revenue and other statistical goals."
Last month, the IRS released a similar report on the Arkansas-Oklahoma district. Auditors found that IRS managers there placed too much emphasis on statistical goals. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights prohibits managers from evaluating employees based on the numbers of seizures and levies they make.
However, Tuesday's report found that 25 percent of revenue officers and 23 percent of group managers said they felt pressure to achieve goals and take enforcement actions.
Also, a review of files from the 12 IRS districts revealed 900 documents containing specific references to enforcement goals, statistics and accomplishments.
References to enforcement statistics were contained in 129 of 339 general manager evaluations, while other documents detailed the number of seizures performed by employees in each district.
In response to the findings, Rossotti announced that the IRS will ask officials from other agencies to serve on a panel to determine disciplinary measures against employees found to have misused enforcement goals.
"We owe it to the American public to take every step possible to ensure that impartial and fair treatment of taxpayers is never compromised," he said.
The agency will release a third report covering collection practices across the country in March.