News4 I-Team uncovered IRS employees are receiving increasing threats every year, according to internal auditors.
Auditors have investigated thousands of potential threats against employees of the Internal Revenue Service since 2009, including cases of intimidation and harassment.
In 2012, the most recent year of data reviewed by the News4 I-Team, investigators with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported 1,314 probes of threats against IRS employees.
Number of threat investigations conducted by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration:
Similar amounts were found in each of the prior three years. The agency’s chief officer, in a January 2013 memo said, “Physical violence, harassment, and intimidation of IRS employees continue to pose significant challenges to the implementation of a fair and effective system of tax administration.”
An October 2012 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration memo reviewed by the News4 I-Team says, “The ongoing public debate regarding the new health care law and continued concerns over the country’s economy could fuel threats against the federal government.”
Marc Owens, a former IRS executive in Washington DC, said he was subjected to repeated cases of harassment, including a man pursuing him by car from Montgomery County to downtown DC. Owens would also report break-ins at his home and an unknown person sifting through his trash. He said he’d eventually be given the protection of an armed guard by federal investigators.
“As I was driving and realized he was following, I thought about my kids walking to the bus stop and my wife up at home," Owners said. "I wondered what else was up [his] sleeve.”
No arrests were made in that case because the man suspected “left town suddenly,” Owens said.
In at least one recent instance, an IRS threat was fatal.
In 2010, a man believed to be a disgruntled taxpayer crashed his private plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas. One agency manager was killed, others were hurt.
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration auditors, in a recent memo to the U.S. Treasury Secretary said, “The IRS has enhanced security nationwide, including acquiring new or additional guard services at IRS facilities. Additionally, the IRS obtained the services of an outside consultant to provide an independent review of its physical security.”
An IRS spokeswoman told the News4 I-Team: “The IRS takes the safety and security of our employees and taxpayers visiting our offices very seriously. The IRS takes numerous steps and works closely with (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) to ensure the security and safety of all—our employees and the public. Beyond that, for security reasons, the IRS does not comment about specific procedures and protocols.”
Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the quantity of threats received, “is very disheartening.” Kelley said it’s important “employees are educated and informed about things to watch for."