Employes of the Internal Revenue Service, appearing before a Senate panel yesterday, said their bosses routinely ignore orders from IRS headquarters and base promotions on the number of property seizures from delinquent taxpayers.
Shirley Garcia of the Landover, Md., IRS office said revenue officers are given the message that "the more harassment they give the public, the more money they collect -- it does look good on their daily report."
"It's now considered a quality error" if an officer does not seize the property of a delinquent taxpayer, said Robert Miller, a revenue officer stationed in Wheaton.
Robert Brown, who works out of the Landover office and is preparing to retire after 26 years with the IRS, said he was once downgraded by superiors for trying to impress on new trainees that they should be courteous to taxpayers.
The revenue officers, whose chief job is collecting delinquent taxes, testified before the Senate Finance subcommittee that oversees the IRS.
The panel is considering a "taxpayers' bill of rights" whose provisions include prohibiting the agency from using property seizures and revenue collections as a basis for promoting employes.
The bill would place the burden on the IRS to prove that every tax assessment is correct; require the agency to read taxpayers their rights any time there is a dispute, and require prior notice and, in many cases, a hearing, before property is seized.
IRS Commissioner Lawrence B. Gibbs testified in April that the IRS prohibits promoting on the basis of seizures and collections. Pryor said it is clear the policy is not being enforced by IRS field offices.
The revenue officers agreed that policies made by national headquarters do not easily filter down through lower-level managers in the field.
John Popping, a revenue officer assigned to the Los Angeles district, said a sign on the office door there reads "Seizure Fever -- Catch It." Some offices offer extra time off to those who have the most seizures, he said.