In questions submitted to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Senate Finance Committee member and U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) sharply criticized the IRS Office of Chief Counsel for undermining the IRS whistleblower program. Grassley voiced his concern over the three main issues hampering the whistleblower program: slowdown of payments, undermining of the whistleblower program by IRS Chief Counsel and the lack of cooperation between the IRS civil division and whistleblowers.

First, Senator Grassley stated that “payments to whistleblowers have slowed to a trickle at best.” In many cases awards have been collected but not paid out to whistleblowers due to slow IRS processing procedures. The hold-up is often the result of procedures with senior management or in the Whistleblower Office. Second, he expressed frustration over the fact that the “IRS Chief Counsel Office seems to wake up every day seeking ways to undermine the whistleblower program both in courts and (in) the awards.” Senator Grassley’s concern stems from the fact that the Chief Counsel Office creates “hyper technical arguments” to deny whistleblowers with rightful claims against those that engage in tax fraud. Lastly, Senator Grassley urged the IRS to work closely with whistleblowers and their counsel. While the IRS criminal division has had success working with whistleblowers, the IRS civil division “hasn’t gotten the message.”

Senator Grassley, a strong advocate of the expansion of the whistleblower program, has criticized the Chief Counsel Office before due to its continuous discouragement of the whistleblower program. The IRS whistleblower program pays awards to individuals who “blow the whistle” on those who fail to pay their owed taxes. Many have contested that issues with the program stem not from the IRS Whistleblower Office, but instead the IRS Chief Counsel Office. While the mission of the Whistleblower Office is to “administer the program governing payment of awards to certain persons who detect underpayment of tax by filing a claim for an award,” its mission has often been complicated by unwarranted attack by the IRS Chief Counsel Office. As pressure on Commissioner Koskinen increases, it will be vital for the IRS Chief Counsel Office to work toward the vital and necessary goals of the whistleblower program.