January 19th, 2017, today, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to consider President-Elect Trump’s pick for the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin. The National Whistleblower Center asked its supporters to insist that the Senators of the Finance Committee use the hearing to find out whether or not Mr. Mnuchin was committed to protecting whistleblowers who report to the IRS.
This was an especially critical question since the IRS is currently considering appealing a crucial Tax Court case helping whistleblowers. The IRS has interpreted the term ‘collected proceeds’ in the whistleblower law narrowly to only reward whistleblowers for reporting civil violations. Their interpretation was struck down by the Tax Court, but if the Treasury Department appeals and they succeed they will cut off whistleblowers who report major criminal frauds from participating in the program.
Following the Action Alert issued by the National Whistleblower Center, Senior Republican Senator Chuck Grassley asked Mr. Mnuchin his position on this issue,
“Should you be confirmed, can I count on you to be supportive of the whistleblower program and work to ensure its success, and would you be willing to review the IRS’s administration program including its very narrow interpretation of the words collected proceeds?”
Mr. Mnuchin responded to the question, stating,
“Absolutely, you have my assurance and I will further say that the majority of Americans voluntarily file their tax returns honestly. We are aware there is tax fraud. There is tax evasion as you said and we need to be diligent and I believe that the whistleblower laws are a very important part of that.”
Mr. Mnuchin did not answer the question when it came to the current Tax Court issue.
The National Whistleblower Center will continue campaigning on this issue to ensure that the IRS whistleblower program remains an effective enforcement tool. Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn stated,
“If supported, tax whistleblowers can uncover all the tax cheats who’ve stashed their money in foreign bank accounts. However, this cannot happen unless the Treasury Secretary backs up his program with words and deeds.”