TIGTA Board to IRS: Shoot for Safety


In our TaxTrends article posted on October 11, we shared information about a recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration ("TIGTA"), which is an independent board that oversees the detection and prevention of fraud and waste within the IRS and related federal agencies. That report identified numerous tax compliance issues with federal entities and even found that the IRS is not authorized to take any effective action to collect outstanding balances.  

On the heels of that report (blandly titled “A Concerted Effort Should Be Taken to Improve Federal Government Agency Tax Compliance”), the TIGTA issued another report that is also worth bringing attention to, this time with a far more interesting title: "Firearms Training for IRS Criminal Investigation Division Needs Improvement." Wait, firearms? The IRS needs improvement in firearms training?  

Fair or not, when most people visualize IRS employees, they typically think of deskbound bureaucrats spending their days pushing papers that would put most of us to sleep. And actually, for many IRS agents, that’s fairly accurate. These employees – Revenue Agents – are the IRS's invaluable front line, auditing and examining financial records to make sure that taxes get paid. But the IRS also has a law enforcement division, which actually has a long history of success. (Interestingly, it was the IRS who finally put Al Capone in jail.) Today, the Criminal Investigation (CI) Division employs an elite force of 2,700 Special Agents who investigate tax evasion, money laundering, narcotics-related financial crimes, and counterterrorism financing. Their duties include executing search warrants and arresting fugitives, and they're even authorized to use deadly force to protect themselves and the public. Obviously, this means that Special Agents must have firearms training and meet the qualification standards each year. The training includes "firing a handgun, entering a building with a firearm, and firing a weapon while wearing a bulletproof vest" (so these agents are definitely not paper-pushers).  

TIGTA examined almost 600 Special Agents working out of four major cities. The good news was they found that CI's firearms training and qualification requirements "generally met or exceeded those of other federal law enforcement agencies" (that's certainly reassuring, as the only thing we can think of that’s more terrifying than an IRS agent carrying a gun is an IRS agent carrying a gun they don't know how to use!). Alarmingly though, TIGTA found that not all Special Agents meet the training and qualification requirements, and field office managers do not  have consistent policies for those special agents who fail them. Additionally, there is no federal review of firearms training to ensure Special Agent compliance.  

In the report, TIGTA proposed two options for the CI division: either enforce the existing policy that requires special agents who don't meet training requirements to surrender their firearms, or modify the existing policy to reflect what actually happens when an agent misses training requirements. TIGTA also recommended that the IRS establish a process to monitor and periodically review the training records of its CI agents.  

CI Special Agents perform important duties for the IRS. Their efforts help keep taxes down and keep us safe in other ways through their anti-fraud and counterterrorism efforts. And while we're confident none of you reading this will ever wind up on the wrong side of an IRS agent's gun, if it ever did happen, wouldn't you want that agent to have gone through some training first?