Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) this afternoon sent a strongly worded letter to IRS Commission John Koskinen asking him to “immediately halt” the practice of using private attorneys to carry out taxpayer examinations including taking sworn testimony from taxpayers. In May of 2014, the IRS retained the global litigation firm of Quinn Emanuel on a $2.2 million contract to assist in the income tax audit and investigation of a corporate taxpayer, including the conduct of sworn interviews. Shortly after retaining the firm, Treasury and IRS issued a temporary regulation allowing third party contractors to take compulsory, sworn testimony in connection with an IRS investigation. According to the IRS, the temporary regulation—issued without a notice and comment period—represented a “clarification” of existing law.
The Finance Committee Chairman doesn’t agree with the IRS’ assessment, noting that the temporary regulation represents “an unprecedented expansion of the role of outside contractors in the examination process.” Moreover, according to Senator Hatch, the IRS’ hiring of a private law firm to conduct a taxpayer exam: appears to violate federal law and the express will of Congress; removes taxpayer protections by allowing the performance of inherently governmental functions by private contractors; and calls into question the IRS’s use of its limited resources.