Head of US tax agency quits amid controversy

President Barack Obama announces tax chief has resigned after organisation was accused of targeting conservative groups.

Last Modified: 16 May 2013 10:20
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Barack Obama, the US president, has announced that the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service will resign as part of the ongoing scandal into the conduct of some IRS officers in unfairly targeting conservative political groups.

Obama has been under pressure to act in the aftermath of acknowledgement by top IRS officials that conservative groups were improperly singled out for review after requesting tax exempt status.

The president said that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had requested and accepted the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, Steven Miller, and said that the matter would be investigated fully.

"I have reviewed the treasury department's watch dog report, and the misconduct that it uncovers is inexcusable," he said.

"It is inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it.

"I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour in any agency, but especially in the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has.

"It should not matter what political stripe you are from, the fact of the matter is that the IRS has to act with absolute integrity."

An investigation by a Treasury inspector general found that the IRS had used inappropriate criteria that identified the Tea Party and other conservative groups as needing closer scrutiny after applying for tax exempt status.

Full investigation

Obama said that he had instructed Secretary Lew to make sure that the IRS implemented all the inspector general's recommendations straight away.

I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour in any agency, but especially in the IRS given the power that it has and the reach that it has

Barack Obama, US president

The president also said that there would be a full investigation so that those directly responsible for the actions would be held accountable.

Ben Wizner, from the American Civil Liberties Union, told Al Jazeera that the US government had so far reacted in exactly the right way.

"There are no abuses of power more constitutionally suspect than using tax authorities to go after groups because of their ideology," he said.

"We have seen it before and every time we've seen it we have objected to it.

"The reactions of Obama and his administration are exactly what you want to hear."

Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, said that one person losing his job over the matter was unlikely to be enough to put it to rest.

In a statement, the outgoing IRS commissioner said there was a need to restore trust in the agency.

"It is with regret that I will be departing from the IRS as my acting assignment ends in early June," Miller said in an internal message that was released by the IRS.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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