Nixonian tactics by a powerful state agency conducting improper tax audits of its own staff? A rogue unit of state tax investigators stealing seized funds? It’s not immediately clear whether either of these is accurate, but according to James Odato‘s very interesting story in today’s Times Union at least one of them may be true.
Odato describes claims by five investigators at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance that they are “being harassed and are victims of a vendetta because they were tied to a team that fell out of favor with agency officials.” The five Taxation and Finance investigators also claim that the excise tax violations team they are part of “had aggressively pursued violators and collected millions of dollars in undercover probes of traffickers of untaxed petroleum, alcohol and tobacco” only to have “agency officials engage in the ‘improper use of taxpayer records to investigate and audit'” them.
Odato further reports, however, that “[t]he audit may be affiliated to a probe by the Inspector General into whether some of the funds seized in past stings by the excise tax unit went missing” and that the Department has “been interrogating or attempting to interrogate many members of the roughly 60 in the excise tax violations team, checking into personal income tax data.”
It’s not yet clear where the truth lies, but either version is troubling. We’ll watch this and see what develops.
˜ John Kenny