The IRS has become a favorite target of legal malpractice lawyers across the country.
But the agency has come under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers and public interest groups who are questioning whether the agency is using its power effectively.
Some of those groups, including the American Bar Association and the National Taxpayer Advocate, have filed lawsuits challenging the agency’s ability to enforce the tax laws.
In a letter released Tuesday, the groups argue that the IRS’s ability is hampered by the agency not using its powers as required by law.
They also question whether the IRS can effectively enforce the law, given the agency relies on taxpayer data to help it collect taxes.
The letter, signed by more than 70 attorneys representing clients, lays out the law’s limitations and challenges IRS use of the power under the Taxpayer Relief Act.
The law allows for exemptions for certain “material” or “exigent” circumstances, such as the financial condition of an individual, a family member, or a member of a foreign government.
But it does not address how the IRS applies its power to enforce federal tax laws in a way that is consistent with the tax code and that would be in the public interest, the letter says.
The groups argue the IRS could apply the power to collect taxes on behalf of taxpayers without revealing the taxpayer’s identity.
It argues the IRS is not applying the law with the requisite degree of independence.
The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The IRS’s refusal to disclose information to the public about its operations, and its failure to fully comply with the law regarding disclosure, is in violation of the Constitution, and it is a violation of tax law,” the letter states.
The attorney groups also contend the IRS has overstepped its bounds when it has issued notices to people to file tax returns, and has refused to comply with court orders in its cases against businesses and people.
“By targeting individuals and small businesses who do not owe money to the IRS, the IRS effectively attempts to stop the flow of revenue to the Treasury,” the groups wrote.
“When the IRS targets individuals and businesses, it creates a chilling effect on economic activity, and does not serve the public good.”
The letter was sent to Acting IRS Commissioner Thomas Pickering, who was confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 3.
The administration of President Donald Trump, however, has not responded to requests for comment on the letter.
The president and congressional Republicans have been pressing the IRS to disclose its efforts to collect tax returns and has said they would not tolerate the agency targeting taxpayers who do.
The White House did not respond to questions about the letter and the Trump administration did not issue a statement about the groups letter.
But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that the administration “will not allow” the IRS “to continue targeting the American taxpayer” in a recent interview on Fox News.