On September 28, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Marjorie A. Rollinson to be the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Rollinson faced questions about the agency’s whistleblower award program.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who championed the 2006 law which modernized the IRS Whistleblower Program, asked Rollinson about how she would support the program should she be confirmed as Chief Counsel.
“I have heard concerns from stakeholders that the chief counsel office is often a barrier to processing claims especially in matters that have gone to the Tax Court,” Grassley said. “I am concerned that there is an attitude in the Chief Counsel’s office – obviously prior to your going there — that whistleblowers are a threat to the public fisc, the exact opposite is true as the $6 billion figure proves whistleblowers are an asset that can identify tax cheats and collect additional revenues. If confirmed, do you pledge to view whistleblowers as working with the IRS and to work to process cases quickly and fairly.”
“I think whistleblowers are very important in terms of tax administration and I really respect the role that they play,” Rollinson responded. “The office of Chief Counsel should be something quite the opposite of a barrier. Our role is to advise on how to interpret the law so we should be working directly with understanding the claims that the whistleblower has brought forward and make sure the law is applied correctly and dispatch the case as quickly as possible.”
“One additional concern in this area I’ve heard from whistleblowers is that the Chief Counsel’s office often undermines the whistleblower office by improperly asserting itself into the award determination – this is how much a whistleblower should get for this information,” Grassley then stated. “If confirmed, do you pledge to support the role and decisions made by the whistleblower office and not undermine its mission by imposing additional burdens on that office.”
“Thank you, if confirmed, I would look forward to working closely with the office and with the goal of not undermining their authority,” Rollinson responded.
President Biden announced the nomination of Rollinson on June 2. Rollinson previously served as the Deputy Director of Ernst & Young’s National Tax Department.
Through the IRS Whistleblower Program, qualified whistleblowers are entitled to monetary awards of 15-30% of the funds collected in the enforcement action connected to their whistleblowing. The program has allowed the U.S. to recover over $6.6 billion from wealthy tax cheats and corporations non-compliant with tax law.
Whistleblower advocates are calling for the passage of the IRS Whistleblower Improvement Act, which offers a number of common sense reforms to the program. In April, whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto authored a piece explaining the importance of the bill.