In July 1862, during the Civil War, President Lincoln and Congress created the office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue and enacted an income tax to pay war expenses (see Revenue Act of 1862). The position of Commissioner exists today as the head of the Internal Revenue Service.
This organization was created to enforce these taxes named for the internal revenue to be collected (and was formerly called the "Bureau of Internal Revenue"), in contrast to U.S. government institutions that collected external revenue through duties and tariffs.
The IRS has its National Capital offices in the greater Washington, D.C. area, and in particular does most of its computer programming in Maryland. It operates various service centers around the country (currently ten; these are the locations to which taxpayers mail their returns); these centers do the actual tax processing; different types of tax processing take place in various centers (such as the distinction between individual and business tax processing). The IRS also operates three computer centers in various locations around the country.
As early as the year 1918, the Bureau of Internal Revenue began using the name "Internal Revenue Service" on at least one tax form. In 1953 the name change to the "Internal Revenue Service" was formalized in Treasury Decision 6038.
The main headquarters building of the IRS is located at 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C., near the Old Post Office. The IRS headquarters building was closed in June 2006 as a result of heavy flooding. According to a July 12, 2006 letter from Senator Max Baucus (Dem.-Montana), a ranking member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, the sub-basement of the building was filled with water to a depth of twenty feet, and electrical and maintenance equipment in the sub-basement was about 95% damaged or destroyed. The IRS and the General Services Administration announced that the building would remain closed through late 2006. The employees who worked in the building numbering over two thousand had been temporarily transferred to other offices at 15 other buildings in the Washington, D.C. area. Computerworld reported that some IRS employees were also allowed to telecommute while the building was closed.
On December 8th, 2006, the IRS said in a press release that "the phased move-in of more than 2,000 IRS employees" had begun. Most staff would have returned by December 19th but "a small number of employees will return after Jan. 1."
Summary of Collections before Refunds by Type of Return, Fiscal Year 2006:
|Type of Return||Number of Returns||Gross Collections (Rounded to the nearest million US$)|
|Individual Income Tax||133,917,068||1,236,259,000,000|
|Corporate Income Tax||2,453,741||380,925,000,000|
During Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, the IRS collected more than $2.2 trillion in tax net of refunds, about 44 percent of which was attributable to the individual income tax. This is partially due to the nature of the individual income tax category; containing taxes collected from working class, small business, self employed, and capital gains. Of the Individual Income Tax, the top 5% of income earners pay 60% of this amount.
Recently, the IRS has altered its policies. The current Service plus Enforcement equals Compliance motto has led to more investigations of abusive tax schemes.
As of 2007, the agency estimates it is owed $300 billion more than it collects.
In September 2006, the IRS started to outsource the collection of taxpayers debts to private debt collection agencies. Opponents to this change note that the IRS will be handing over personal information to these debt collection agencies, who are being paid between twenty-two and twenty-four percent of the amount collected. Opponents are also worried about the agencies' being paid on percent collected because it will encourage the collectors to use pressure tactics to collect the maximum amount. IRS spokesman Terry Lemons responds to these critics saying the new system "is a sound, balanced program that respects taxpayers' rights and taxpayer privacy." Other state and local agencies also use private collection agencies.
More formal rulemaking to give the Service's interpretation of a statute or when the statute itself directs that the Secretary of the Treasury shall provide, IRS undergoes the formal regulation process with a Notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register announcing the proposed regulation, the date of the in person hearing and the process for interested parties to have their views heard either in person at the hearing in Washington, D.C., or by mail. Following the statutory period provided in the Administrative Procedure Act (an abiding interest of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinions) the Service decides on the final regulations "as is," or as reflecting changes, or sometimes withdraws the proposed regulations. Generally, taxpayers may rely on proposed regulations until final regulations become effective. For example, human resource professionals are relying on the October 4, 2005 Proposed Regulations (citation 70 F.R. 57930-57984) for the Section 409A on deferred compensation (the so-called Enron rules on deferred compensation to add teeth to the old rules) because regulations have not been finalized.
The IRS, and in particular the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), has on more than one occasion been accused of abusive behavior. Statements given in hearings before the Senate Finance Committee criticize the IRS:
Congress passed the Taxpayer Bill of Rights III on July 22, 1998, which shifted the burden of proof from the taxpayer to the IRS in certain limited situations. The IRS retains the legal authority to enforce liens and seize assets without obtaining judgment in court.
Allegations of insidious conduct by the IRS are found in the movie America: From Freedom to Fascism (Watch Movie), directed by Libertarian filmmaker Aaron Russo. The movie alleges that the IRS is part of a plot to make the United States a police state. See also Tax protester conspiracy arguments.
Attorney Michael Minns has asserted that the IRS often destroys the lives of those it targets with no regard for their personal lives or reputations, or that of their families. Minns was the defense lawyer in a case against the IRS on behalf of James and Pamela Moran after an initial indictment and what Minns asserts was an IRS smear campaign that virtually canvassed the taxpayers' own hometown and surrounding area. The original indictment was associated with the Morans' involvement with a tax shelter provider, Anderson's Ark & Associates. The Morans were eventually acquitted in the case.
Minns also had previously asserted that the behavior of two IRS attorneys, Kenneth McWade and William A. Sims, constituted legal misconduct and recommended them for disbarment. Following an investigation, the law licenses of the IRS attorneys were duly suspended for a two year period after a federal court ruling found that the two had indeed defrauded the courts in connection with 1,300 tax shelter cases. In 2003, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that the IRS lawyers had corruptly agreed with certain taxpayers that no tax collection actions would be taken against them - in return for testimony against other taxpayers. The court also asked why the IRS had not punished the two.
Many tax protesters claim that because the IRS itself was not created by statute and because the IRS has no legal capacity to sue or be sued, the IRS is not a federal government agency. Some claim it is a Puerto Rican trust. The courts have uniformly rejected such arguments as a basis for not filing a tax return or paying tax.
Most tax lawyers employed at the IRS are part of the Office of Chief Counsel, either in the home office in Washington, D.C., or in the field. Rulemaking occurs in the home office in various divisions such as Passthroughs and Special Industries, Financial Institutions, Large and Mid Size Business, Tax Exempt and others. Litigators can be found in the field where the Service finds taxpayers who have been given notice of deficiencies.
Sen. Dorgan Introduces Bill to Prohibit Internal Revenue Service from Using Private Debt Collection Companies
Sep 18, 2006; WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 -- Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-North Dakota, has introduced a bill (S. 3887) to "prohibit the Internal Revenue...