Yesterday, Senator Grassley (R-IA) released a letter sent to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Douglas Shulman concerning the progress of the IRS Whistleblower Office. Senator Grassley thanked the IRS for “making good faith efforts to embrace whistleblowers instead of reverting to the old culture of treating them like skunks at a picnic,” but said he remains concerned that the long timeframes and lack of communication with whistleblowers will discourage current and future whistleblowers.

Senator Grassley made a number of requests, including that the IRS prioritize the changes recommended in a recent report on the Whistleblower Office from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). He also requested that the data from the GAO report be updated and included in the IRS yearly report to Congress.

Senator Grassley attached a letter sent to Commissioner Shulman from The Government Accountability Project, No FEAR Coalition and National Whistleblowers Center on August 10, 2011 requesting that the IRS immediately revise their Internal Revenue Manual’s factors for determining whether a whistleblower should have a reduced award because the whistleblower “planned and initiated” an action. The Senator asked that the IRS “give serious consideration to the points raised” in the advocacy organizations’ letter. Senator Grassley confirmed that the “limitations for planners and initiators was intended to apply to the chief architect or the chief wrongdoer [emphasis original].” For more information see the August 11, 2011 blog posting “IRS Guidelines Discourage Whistleblowers. We hope that the IRS makes this change and encourages everyone, even those without the cleanest hands, to come forward and report tax fraud.

The Senator stated that the GAO report provides a road map and it is up to the IRS and Treasury Department to follow it by making changes so that whistleblowers will not be discouraged by delays in claim processing or by rules that contradict well-established rules for compensation of non-tax whistleblowers. Senator Grassley concluded that improving the IRS whistleblower program is in everyone’s best interest because “more tax compliance means more fairness for hardworking families who pay what they owe.”