Will IRS abuse investigations probe the IRS Scientology fiasco?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was recently audited in US Senate hearings, but will IRS investigators have the courage to face one of the largest IRS abuses ever: its secret 1993 tax settlement with the controversial organization called Scientology?
The secret deal, which the IRS seemed to be intimidated into, granted Scientology tax-exempt status and cut its estimated billion-dollar tax debt to about 1% of that amount. Not only was this deal a reversal of the IRS' 25-year policy regarding Scientology's history of illegal tax procedures, but it also cost taxpayers almost a billion dollars in unpaid taxes and gave Scientology private/religious education tax exemptions not given to any other religion.
This 1993 tax deal was secret until exposed a few months ago by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, and has since captured the interest of tens of millions of US taxpayers, major worldwide corporations with US tax liabilities, and diverse special interest groups with concerns ranging from taxation to religion to separation of church and state.
After repeatedly and justifiably denying Scientology's tax-exempt status, the IRS suddenly reversed its position in 1993 with the secret settlement granting Scientology religious status and canceling most of the organization's huge tax debt. The mysterious and shocking reversal for the U.S. tax agency came after 25 years of steadfastly refusing to provide Scientology with the tax exemption given to bona fide churches. Many believe that the scope of what was given away by the IRS to the multi-billion dollar Scientology organization, in financial benefit and other special considerations, is far beyond anything that has been given to any other religious group, corporation, or normal taxpayer.
As outrageously unfair as this secret deal appears, the means by which Scientology obtained it may be even worse -- from filing 2,200 lawsuits against the IRS, to sending private investigators to pry into the personal lives of IRS employees, to hiring an IRS-insider, to filing an application experts say is riddled with fraud. An IRS staff member who claims to have worked on the case called the secret deal a sell-out by higher management. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the individual said that agents working on the case had endured frightening calls to their homes and disappearing pets, and that Scientology should have never been given what was given.
Scientology has a history that attests to such behavior. In 1979, nine top leaders of Scientology pled guilty to criminal charges for their involvement in the infiltration of over 100 U.S. government agencies. A federal prosecutor in the case wrote, "The crime committed by these defendants is of a breadth and scope previously unheard of. No building, office, desk, or file was safe from their snooping and prying. No individual or organization was free from their despicable conspiratorial minds. The tools of their trade were miniature transmitters, lock picks, secret codes, forged credentials and any other device they found necessary to carry out their conspiratorial schemes."
Scientology's background makes the IRS' radical and unexpected reversal of its position on Scientology's tax status even more baffling. Lawrence B. Gibbs, IRS commissioner from 1986 to 1989, calls the settlement "a very surprising decision." He said, "When you have as much litigation over as much time, with the general uniformity of results that the service had with Scientology, it is surprising to have the ultimate decision be favorable. It was even more surprising that the service made the decision without full disclosure, in light of the prior background."
Did Scientology bludgeon the IRS into complying with its will at a huge cost to all other taxpayers? Who was involved? Clinton recently showed complicity with Scientology by promising actor John Travolta to assist his cult's situation in Germany possibly in exchange for a more positive portrayal in the upcoming film Primary Colors. Given these events, one must now also wonder if the Clinton administration's accomodations to Scientology could date back to 1993 when Scientology received the huge sweetheart IRS tax deal.
Especially in light of the sweeping IRS changes Clinton and Gore have promised, the new IRS commissioner needs to initiate a review of this seemingly outrageous secret settlement as soon as possible. Justice demands it. Public confidence in fairness at the IRS needs to be restored. Re-evaluating Scientology's questionable deal for intimidation, wrongdoing and/or fraud will go a long way towards proving the reinvention of the IRS and these hearing are about exposing the allegations of IRS misconduct.
What you can do about this outrageous secret IRS deal with Scientology:
Get this editorial to all the people who can bring this issue before the IRS hearing commission.
Forward this editorial alert to all individuals and organizations concerned with issues related to taxes, religious education, and separation of church and state. All have an interest in seeing that this secret IRS deal is reviewed. Parents paying for their children's private religious education may then be able to deduct its full cost from their taxes.
Write the new IRS Commissioner, Charles O. Rossotti (who was not involved in the secret deal), and ask him to open an investigation into the secret agreement, the process of its approval, and the alleged fraud in Scientology's original application. Tell him you believe this special Scientology secret deal gives grossly unfair and inappropriate tax considerations to one church over another and appears to pierce the separation of church and state. E-mail the commissioner from this web site: email.html. Or write him at:
Charles O. Rossotti, Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
Department of the Treasury
500 N Capitol St, NW, 1st Floor
Washington, DC 20221
Learn more about the capitulation of the IRS to Scientology's alleged coercion. For details on the secret deal and its background, see give-away.htm