- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Few checks

The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration has issued a report with a little-noticed warning: The Internal Revenue Service has no way to verify many of the tax breaks authorized by the stimulus bill enacted earlier this year.

The $787 billion economic stimulus bill, formally called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, doled out 56 new tax breaks and credits, 20 of which were targeted toward individual taxpayers and 36 toward businesses. But the IRS is unable to track more than half of them.

“The IRS cannot verify the accuracy of all the legislated requirements before the tax return has completed processing for 39 Recovery Act provisions,” said the audit, issued by Inspector General J. Russell George. “To a great extent, the IRS relies on taxpayers’ voluntary compliance with tax laws to accurately report income and claim only those tax benefits and credits to which they are entitled.”

The IRS said it would require more documentation from the taxpayer as a part of the filing process to verify eligibility for the breaks.

A pattern

The tax administration inspector general’s report follows an audit by the Treasury Department’s inspector general that found massive fraud and error in the government’s new first-time-homebuyer credit program.

The program was created to help draw more people into the housing market in hopes of jump-starting sales, but Inspector General Russell George said in a report dated Sept. 29 that tens of thousands of people received the credit without ever buying a home. According to the report, 19,351 taxpayers claimed the $8,000 tax credit for homes that had not been purchased, providing them with more than $139 million in tax breaks.

Some people claimed the credit for homes that were not their first. The audit flagged 70,005 questionable claims, worth $479 million, made by people who were likely not first-time homebuyers. Roughly a third of those flagged had claimed energy tax credits on one of their previous three tax returns, indicating they already owned a principal residence.

Worse yet, 582 taxpayers younger than 18 claimed nearly $4 million in credits for first-time homebuyers. The youngest among them were 4.

Again, the Treasury recommended that the IRS require more documentation before the tax credits are authorized.

Teachers’ pick

The National Education Association, a labor union for teachers, is encouraging its members to read a book on bare-knuckled politics written by a community organizer loathed by conservatives.

Under a section of the NEA Web site titled “Recommended Reading” is an in-depth, positive review of Saul Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals,” with links to purchase it on Amazon.com.

“Alinsky’s goal seems to be to encourage positive social change by equipping activists with a realistic view of the world, a kind of preemptive disillusionment,” the review posted on NEA.org says. “If a person already knows what evil the world is capable of, then perhaps the surprise factor can be eliminated, making the person a more effective activist. Alinsky further seems to be encouraging the budding activist not to worry [too] much about getting his or her hands dirty. It’s all a part of the job, he seems to say.”

The NEA did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times.

Fire Napolitano

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s poor explanation of what the government was doing to ensure airline safety after the terrorism scare over the weekend is prompting calls in conservative circles for her resignation.

Ms. Napolitano told CNN’s Candy Crowley that “the system worked.”

“Everybody played an important role here,” she said. “The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action; within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight.”

“The whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went smoothly,” she added.

Those remarks were met with immediate criticism by people who pointed out that the only reason the flight was not destroyed was because suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s explosive device failed.

Although Ms. Napolitano later tempered her statements, acknowledging the security gaps that permitted Mr. Abdulmutallab, who was on a terrorist watch list, to board the flight, some people still want her gone.

“DHS had no role whatsoever in assuring that this bomb didn’t go off,” wrote National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. “By her logic, if the bomb had gone off, the system would have ‘worked’ since it has done everything right.”

Additionally, the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner called for Ms. Napolitano’s resignation in an editorial Monday.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washington times.com.

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