IRS’ 10 deadly sins to remain deadly

House lawmakers failed to pass a bill Wednesday that would have taken some of the sting out of a 1998 law that requires automatic termination of Internal Revenue Service employees who commit 10 infractions ranging from assaulting taxpayers and co-workers to filing tax returns late.

Any violation listed under Section 1203(b) of the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act, dubbed the "10 Deadly Sins" by IRS employees, means immediate termination with appeal only to the IRS commissioner. The 10 offenses are: threatening to audit someone for personal gain; conducting a seizure without approval; assaulting, harassing or violating the civil rights of a taxpayer or a coworker; lying under oath; falsifying or destroying records; concealing information from Congress; underreporting income; and failing to file a tax return on time.

In February the Treasury Department asked Congress to restructure the law to allow for punishment tailored to the offense and to remove two violations from the list--late filing of a return when a refund is owed, and allegations of employee wrongdoing against co-workers. IRS officials said the stringent rules contribute to low employee morale at the agency.

But a voice vote on the House floor Wednesday failed to draw enough support to pass the "Taxpayer Protection and IRS Accountability Act of 2002" (H.R. 3991), which would have lessened the penalty suffered by IRS employees who violate the "sins."

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley criticized the vote, saying "the chilling effect on both revenue collection and IRS employee morale of Section 1203(b) cannot be overstated. Fundamental fairness demands that IRS employees not be subject to this uniquely harsh standard."