U.S. News

Factbox: IRS's rich history of scandals, political abuse

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A crisis engulfing the U.S. Internal Revenue Service over its scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status adds to a long history of scandal and abuse - both real and alleged - at the tax agency.

Here are some high-profile cases over the past 80 years, based on historical articles, books and news reports.

1930s - President Franklin Roosevelt used the IRS against political enemies, launching investigations into the finances of publisher William Randolph Hearst, Louisiana Governor Huey Long and controversial radio priest Charles Coughlin.

1940s and 1950s - Corruption and bribery became widespread at the IRS, resulting in hundreds of staffers being dismissed or indicted. The agency went through a major reorganization during the administration of President Harry Truman. Employees were put under the civil service to prevent political influence.

1960s - During the administration of President John Kennedy, the IRS created an “Ideological Organizations Audit Project” that investigated conservative groups and challenged their tax-exempt status. The IRS started the project after Kennedy complained about right-wing groups getting tax-exempt status during a news conference. Targets included the American Enterprise Institute and Christian Anti-Communist Crusade.

1960s, 70s - The Nixon administration created an IRS unit called the Special Services Staff, or SSS, to target activists and political dissidents. The White House drafted an “enemies list” of political opponents to be targeted for IRS audits, although then-IRS Commissioner Donald Alexander resisted pressure to audit Nixon’s enemies and ordered the SSS dissolved.

1990s - During hearings by Senator William Roth’s Finance Committee, the IRS was accused of “Gestapo-like” conduct and myriad taxpayer abuses. Congress passed a 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act that shored up taxpayer rights and put limits on IRS enforcement powers. An investigation demanded by the committee found no evidence of systematic abuses.

Reporting by Dena Aubin; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Christopher Wilson