A bi-partisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate proposes two key measures to improve the IRS whistleblower program. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bill Wyden (D-Ore.), founding members of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, produced the IRS Whistleblower Improvements Act of 2017 to enhance communication between the IRS and whistleblowers and strengthen legal protections for whistleblowers facing retaliation from employers for disclosing tax fraud.
Whistleblowers who have called out tax abuses to the IRS have expressed frustration and anxiety over the agency’s handling of their tips, and especially when it comes to updates about the status of their case. Because anxiety over blowing the whistle can be exacerbated by silence, the bill would allow the IRS to exchange information with whistleblowers to aid an investigation. It would also require the IRS to provide whistleblowers with status updates involving each significant development in the review process.
The proposed bill seeks to protect whistleblowers from backlash for standing up to fraud and abuse. That is a giant obstacle whistleblowers face. The bill aims to extend the anti-retaliation provisions afforded to whistleblowers by other laws, such as the False Claims Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, to IRS whistleblowers. Tax whistleblowers can be easily identified within their companies because they have specific knowledge of tax fraud.
Senators Grassley and Wyden said extending protections that exist in other laws and statutes to tax whistleblowers is not just a matter of fairness to all U.S. taxpayers who pay taxes honestly, it’s also in the nation’s best interest to protect these valuable whistleblowers. Robert Patten, President and CEO of Taxpayers Against Fraud, stated:
These amendments will significantly strengthen the fraud-fighting potential of the IRS Whistleblower statute and promote the public-private partnerships that the law was originally enacted to foster. In particular, the anti-retaliation provisions will encourage more citizens to come forward and will result in the recovery of significant funds that would otherwise be lost to tax fraud.
Andrew Brashier, a lawyer in our firm’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, handles cases involving whistleblower claims. You can contact him at 800-898-2034 or by email at Andrew.Brashier@beasleyallen.com.
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