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Public Statements

Lifting of Objection

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC

Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, on June 27, I provided notice of my intent to object to proceeding to the nominations of Mark J. Mazur, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and Matthew S. Rutherford, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. My support for the final confirmation of these nominees depended on receiving information from both the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service regarding their implementation of the tax whistleblower program. Since I have received the responses, I no longer object to proceeding to these nominations.

The IRS is making progress in paying whistleblower awards under the old statute over 90 awards paid from October 1, 2011, until now. However, I want to make clear that the responses do not alleviate my concerns about these agencies' implementation of changes to the tax whistleblower statute I authored almost 6 years ago. Regulations to implement the new reward program have yet to be issued and only a handful of awards are expected to be paid out before the end of this year.

I began asking questions about the program's implementation in 2010. I wrote again in 2011 and then again on April 30 of this year. Unfortunately, I did not get complete answers until I objected to proceeding to the nominations of Mr. Mazur and Mr. Rutherford.

If I hadn't objected to proceeding to these nominations, Congress would not have received the most recent annual report on the whistleblower program that is mandated by law. It was provided to Congress on June 13, 2012, for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2011. That is almost 9 months from the end of the year for which it contains data.

If I hadn't objected to proceeding to these nominations, the IRS likely would not have acknowledged that there is, in fact, a problem with timely processing whistleblower claims. IRS Deputy Commissioner Miller's June 20, 2012, directive to IRS executives and senior managers is a good first step toward correcting this problem.

However, more needs to be done. IRS still has not committed to prioritizing claims raised by whistleblowers. In addition, the important protections afforded to taxpayers, including the right to appeal IRS decisions, delay IRS from actually collecting the taxes for years and, as the law is currently written, the taxes must be collected first before a whistleblower can be paid any money.

From my long history of oversight of the IRS, I know that it is essential that taxpayers be protected from sometimes overeager IRS employees. Yet there must be a way to ensure that the process and procedures that exist to protect taxpayers don't deter whistleblowers from coming forward. The Treasury Department and the IRS have agreed to participate in a roundtable discussion that I hope will help identify solutions.

It is unfortunate that objecting to these nominees, both of whom were approved by the Finance Committee by unanimous, bipartisan votes, was the only way I could get information about the whistleblower program. At least there is now more information than ever before about the IRS whistleblower program.

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