IRS enforcement unit passes inspection

IRS enforcement unit passes inspection

The IRS's Criminal Investigation Division (CID) received an almost squeaky clean bill of health from a judge assigned to review the unit's tax administration enforcement efforts.

William H. Webster, former head of the CIA and the FBI, refuted allegations that CID's investigative practices were marred by corruption and misconduct in a report released this week. IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti commissioned Webster to conduct the independent review of the agency's criminal enforcement arm last year following Senate Finance Committee oversight hearings.

The Webster Commission, composed of federal law enforcement personnel with financial management expertise, reviewed CID's caseload, investigative methods, organizational structure and personnel policies and practices.

The commission found that CID agents do not systematically abuse their authority to seek search warrants, that the agents' undercover practices conform with those of other federal law enforcement agencies, and that they are properly trained to use their weapons. The commission also found no patterns of personnel misconduct within the ranks of CID agents. Senate Finance Committee members had expressed concern about these issues in oversight hearings held last April.

But the commission did identify problems in the agency's caseload and jurisdiction. CID agents handle cases unrelated to their primary mission of administering federal internal revenue laws. In particular, the agency devotes a lot of time and energy to drug investigations, which rarely result in tax compliance improvements.

"CID must recognize that despite the valuable contribution it makes to law enforcement generally, its principal role is to assist the commissioner of the IRS in establishing an overall IRS compliance strategy," the report said.

Rossotti said the commission's conclusions were consistent with his plans for IRS reform. But Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Roth, R-Del., was less enthusiastic. "These findings confirm that this division has serious problems and is in need of restructuring to ensure that it properly returns to and carries out its intended mission," he said.