Did Acting IRS Commissioner Deserve to be Fired?

May 18, 2013 — 2 Comments

It’s no surprise that acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller submitted his resignation this week. Many were calling for his head, others for the obliteration of the agency altogether.  In a letter to employees, Miller wrote:

Dear Colleagues:

It is with regret that I will be departing from the IRS as my acting assignment ends in early June. This has been an incredibly difficult time for the IRS given the events of the past few days, and there is a strong and immediate need to restore public trust in the nation’s tax agency. I believe the Service will benefit from having a new Acting Commissioner in place during this challenging period. As I wrap up my time at the IRS, I will be focused on an orderly transition.

While I recognize that much work needs to be done to restore faith in the IRS, I don’t want anyone to lose sight of the fact that the IRS is comprised of incredibly dedicated and hard-working public servants. During my 25-year IRS career, I am profoundly proud to have worked alongside you and to be part of an institution that has worked hard to support the nation. I have strong confidence in the IRS leadership team to continue the important work of our agency.

I want to thank everyone for all of their support and friendship during my career in government service. And I especially want to thank each and every one of you for your continued commitment to the nation’s taxpayers.Steve

The IRS has come under fire for admitting to targeting tea-party affiliated organizations in their applications for tax-exempt status. (Read More: It’s no tea-party for Obama or the IRS)

Miller’s departure is the first of many slaps on the wrist for an agency struggling to wipe away the stain on its already fragile reputation.

To note, Mr. Miller’s position was temporary to begin with, a point which many politicians have slipped on incuding Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) who released a statement saying: “I strongly urge that you and President Obama demand the IRS Commissioner’s resignation.” But Miller is only an acting commissioner. Bush-appointee Douglas Shulman was the last Commissioner. After his resignation in November following a 5-year stint, President Obama named Miller the acting commissioner. Historically, acting commissioners do not ascend to Commissioner.

Miller will end his 25-year career at the IRS when his current contract expires in three-weeks.

Whether or not Miller is to blame is irrelevant at this point. With the White House already dealing with the the AP leaks and unable to shake off the Benghazi aftermath, there was no way Obama could get away with not demanding Miller clean out his desk.

Still, there is room to sympathize for the man. Miller took office long after the allegations began. His predecessor learned that the IRS may have been selective in their targeting of conservative groups back in May, 2012. When Miller entered, there was little he could do except try to soften the blow of the soon to become public scandal.

It’s also not an easy job to lead a 100,000 person workforce with $2.5 trillion of capital outflows a year. Especially in a country where a movement called “Taxed Enough Already,” (the acronym for the tea in tea-party) is a dominant political force.

Still, Miller’s critics argue he mishandled the situation. Following a letter written by 10 Republican congress members requesting information on the targeting of conservative groups, which Miller had been previously informed on, he returned a vague response that did not acknowledge any improper conduct by IRS employees.

“They purposely misled me,” said Utah Sen. Orrinn Hatch, a leader in the IRS probe.

And others argue Miller got off easy. Speaker John Boehner said the question is not who is getting fired, but who is going to jail over this scandal.

Obama is expected to name Daniel Werfel to the acting commissioner role next week.


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