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US DoJ Fails To Stop Witness Testifying At Senate Tax Hearing

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

12 April 2007

The Justice Department has failed in its effort to keep a witness from appearing at a hearing today of the Senate Finance Committee, following a hearing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday.

The Finance Committee last week obtained judicial approval to call a witness convicted of various crimes including identity theft and tax fraud, as a witness at its annual hearing on the tax filing season and the challenges taxpayers face. However, late Monday, the Department of Justice filed a motion to quash the Finance Committee’s summons for the witness’s testimony.

Judge Thomas F. Hogan affirmed the Committee’s right to call the witness, who is now expected to testify as planned, to help it understand how as many as 15,000 American taxpayers may have fallen victim to identity theft tax crimes last year.

Commenting on the development, Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D - Mon) announced: “I’m baffled as to why the Department of Justice would try to stop Congress from alerting Americans fully to the problem of identity theft and tax fraud."

“We have called this witness to help taxpayers understand how criminals can prey on them at tax time. The Justice Department didn’t articulate any legitimate reason for standing in the way of Congress’s oversight responsibilities. It appears they just wanted to stop the Finance Committee from holding a hearing as we see fit," he added.

Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R - Iowa) noted: “It’s hard to see how the Justice Department’s legal fight served the public."

"This legal battle tied up Justice Department attorneys whose time could have been better spent. Surely, the Justice Department has better things to do than waste precious resources interfering with a congressional hearing that ironically will highlight their good work convicting a tax-scamming con artist," Grassley continued.

Additional witnesses at the hearing today include Mark W. Everson, Commissioner of the IRS. Everson will also update the panel on the IRS response to last year’s GAO study, which found widespread problems and errors in the paid preparer industry, and on implementation of the telephone tax refund. Other witnesses include Eileen J. O’Connor, Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division, Department of Justice (DOJ); Michael Phillips, Deputy Inspector General for Audit, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA); and James White, Director, Tax Issues, Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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