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August 20, 2013
More Personnel Moves in IRS EO Function
by Fred Stokeld

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This document originally appeared in the August 19, 2013 edition of Tax Notes.

By Fred Stokeld --

The IRS Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division is continuing to make personnel changes amid the Tea Party scandal, with some officials receiving new assignments.

Cindy Thomas, manager of the exempt organizations determinations unit in Cincinnati, will become a senior technical adviser to the director of exempt organizations at the IRS, according to an internal e-mail sent August 9 by acting IRS EO Director Kenneth C. Corbin. Thomas will replace Sharon Light, who is joining the staff of the American Cancer Society.

Thomas's name has surfaced several times during congressional investigations into the Tea Party matter, in which the exemption applications of Tea Party and other conservative organizations were selected for additional review by the IRS. In an August 2 letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif., said the IRS prevented Thomas from giving the committee documents she possessed before her June 28 interview with committee staff.

In a July 29 letter to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, Issa and committee member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said testimony from the committee's interviews with IRS employees indicated that at least some Tea Party groups that already had tax-exempt status were selected for extra scrutiny by the agency. They cited testimony by Thomas, who told the committee the IRS decided in 2012 to refer all advocacy cases to the IRS's Review of Operations Unit.

In a July 17 letter to the IRS, Issa, Jordan, and the majority leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee said Thomas testified that she repeatedly asked senior IRS officials in Washington for guidance on processing Tea Party applications, but to no avail.

Corbin reported that Judith E. Kindell, a senior technical adviser to the EO director, will be primarily responsible for all functions and issues of the senior technical advisers team regarding examinations. Kindell was a senior technical adviser to Lois Lerner, the EO director who first acknowledged that applications of Tea Party groups were singled out and is now on administrative leave.

Testifying before Issa's committee on July 18, Carter Hull, a retired IRS tax law specialist, said he was assigned two Tea Party applications that were to be test cases for processing similar applications in the future, and that he concluded that one application should be approved and the other one denied. Kindell, he said, suggested that the cases be elevated to the IRS chief counsel's office, a move Hull said was unusual. (Prior coverage: Tax Notes, July 22, 2013, p. 298.)

Another senior technical adviser, Meghan Biss, will primarily be responsible for technical and guidance-related functions and issues addressed by the senior technical advisers, according to Corbin.

Corbin announced that the area senior managers in EO Rulings and Agreements will report directly to the director of that office while the processing section will temporarily fall under quality review.

In another development in the exemption applications controversy, Issa and Jordan on August 13 wrote Lerner about documents regarding her official duties that they say she sent from her official IRS e-mail account to an account labeled "Lois Home." The revelation raises questions about Lerner's use of a nonofficial e-mail account to conduct official business, Issa and Jordan said, and they requested documents regarding her official duties that are housed in nonofficial e-mail accounts.

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