IRS Resists Whistleblowers

Agency pays few rewards, although it receives many tips of tax underpayments.

Alliantgroup LP is a politically connected advisory firm that helps companies apply for lucrative tax credits. Clients have ranged from Oscar de la Renta to an Arkansas candle maker.

The firm also helps companies sidestep taxes, two former employees alleged in July 2009. In a 32-page submission filed with the Internal Revenue Service, along with internal e-mails and documents, they claimed Alliantgroup’s clients could owe the U.S. Treasury as much as $712.5 million in refunds over wrongly claimed tax credits. The whistleblowers stood to make more than $210 million, under a law that offers informers as much as 30 percent of what the government recovers from their tips.

Lengthy Process

Whistleblower claims “can take years to go through the IRS review and award determination process,” and the IRS doesn’t collect enough information on why claims are rejected, the Government Accountability Office said in a report last year.

Odyssey Begins

The Alliantgroup whistleblowers’ odyssey began in July 2009 when they submitted their claim to the IRS.

Job Descriptions

In an interview, Gavankar, who left the company in 2008, said that while he didn’t recall the specific e-mail exchanges, it was common to shoehorn employees’ job descriptions into positions that would help generate credits.

Request Denied

That request was denied after discussions between the criminal division and the IRS chief counsel’s office, according to the memorandum. The file was passed back to Onken at the whistleblower office.

Presenting Views

The meeting was requested by Alliantgroup to “present its views of issues and challenges faced by small- to mid-sized accounting firms,” said an agency spokesman. It didn’t address the whistleblower office, the agency said.

IRS Reluctance

The reluctance of the IRS to talk directly to whistleblowers is common, according to lawyers who file such claims.

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