Inspector General found that “Special agents not properly trained in the use of firearms could endanger the public, as well as their fellow special agents, and expose the IRS to possible litigation over injuries or damages”

President Biden’s push to increase the size and power of the IRS has significant criminal justice ramifications. The agency has a long and poor track record of misusing service weapons and ensuring agents receive the required firearms training. This failure to follow basic procedures puts American lives and property in danger.

According to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), special agents at the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) accidentally fired their weapons more often than they intentionally fired them:

“According to documentation provided by all 26 CI field offices, the NCITA, and the TIGTA OI, there were a total of eight firearm discharges classified as intentional use of force incidents and 11 discharges classified as accidental during FYs 2009 through 2011.”

Additionally, the audit found that that some special agents did not meet all of the firearms training or qualification requirements:

“Field office management did not always take consistent and appropriate actions when a special agent failed to meet the requirements because the guidance is vague. In addition, there is no national-level review of firearms training records to ensure that all special agents meet the qualification requirements.”

This lackadaisical approach to firearm safety has led to easily preventable accidents. The Inspector General cryptically references accidental discharges that caused “property damage or personal injury”:

“In three of the four accidental discharges that were not reported, the accidental discharges may have resulted in property damage or personal injury.”

The details of these incidents are for some reason redacted in the report:

As the agents are authorized to carry weapons, they must meet certain firearms training and qualification standards.

In order to carry or use an IRS-owned weapon, agents must: engage in handgun firing training at least once each quarter, shoot at least the minimum of 75 percentage points on the firearms qualifying test using the issued handgun during two nonconsecutive quarters, participate in biannual firearms building entry exercises, participate in an annual briefing on firearms safety and security policies and CI’s directives and procedures regarding the safe handling and storage of firearms, and participate in a briefing each quarter regarding the policy of discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle.

CI’s National Criminal Investigation Training Academy (NCITA) is responsible for implementing the formalized firearms training and qualification program nationwide. This includes developing the firearm qualification requirements they are expected to meet and the training special agents will undergo. Despite these requirements, CI agents have regularly failed to stay up to date on training or report incidents, endangering the taxpayers they are supposed to protect.

Insufficient procedures for special agents who do not meet firearms qualification requirements

TIGTA found 24 special agents who did not meet the requirement to qualify with the weapon concealed and 48 special agents who did not qualify while wearing warrant service apparel. In all, 13 special agents did not meet both those requirements, while nine of the 13 also did not meet the biannual standard requirement. Making matters worse, the agency failed to secure the firearms of those who did not meet their requirements:

“controls did not ensure that CI personnel properly secured firearms when special agents failed to meet the biannual standard qualification requirement. CI was only able to provide evidence that firearms were surrendered in nine of the 27 instances when special agents did not qualify. The Criminal Investigation Management Information System was only updated to reflect the custody change in four of those nine instances.”

The agency did not keep track of special agents on temporary assignment to another field office:

“In addition, controls did not ensure that special agents on temporary assignment to another field office met the firearm qualification requirements.”

The report also found that:

“controls did not ensure that CI personnel properly secured firearms when special agents
failed to meet the biannual standard qualification requirement. CI was only able to provide evidence that firearms were surrendered in nine of the 27 instances when special agents did not qualify.”

Ultimately, TIGTA’s analysis of the qualification process led to some damning conclusions:

“Considering the gravity of carrying and using a firearm, there should be no margin for error in the firearms training and certification program. By not having effective procedures to ensure special agents are qualified to carry and use a firearm when needed, CI risks endangering other special agents and the public. In addition, the IRS could be held liable for injuries or damage resulting from special agents using a firearm who have not met the required qualifications.”

Investigations are put at risk when special agents do not meet firearms training requirements

Despite the importance of firearm training, TIGTA could not always determine if offices conducted training:

“we could not always determine if the field offices conducted the required training or if all special agents participated in the necessary training because field office supporting documentation varied among the locations. For example, two locations did not always document that they conducted training or which special agents attended. This lack of documentation was the main reason we could only verify that 78 (13.1 percent) of the 597 special agents in our judgmental sample met all of their training requirements during FY 2011.”

In addition, the Inspector General noted that “there were numerous unexplained absences” that led to firearms training not being conducted.

Special agents are required to surrender their weapons when they fail to participate in this training, however this often does not happen:

“However, there is currently little consequence for special agents who fail to meet the training requirements listed on the checklist. The responses of field office management and the UFCs from the four field offices varied as to the actions taken after a special agent missed such training. The responses included:

  • The UFC will try to schedule makeup training, but the special agent needs to at least qualify to keep the firearm.
  • Management will speak to the special agent personally if there is a pattern of unexcused absences.
  • Depending on the circumstances, the special agent may have to surrender the firearm if management concludes that the reason for missing the training was not sufficient.
  • Management will discuss the circumstances with the supervisory special agent and emphasize the importance of training attendance. However, missed training would not result in the surrender of the firearm.”

These lapses by the IRS-CI could torpedo their ability to effectively try cases:

“Court decisions in the past have held law enforcement entities liable because their law enforcement agents did not have training that reflected the environment that they would likely encounter, such as training involving moving targets and low-light conditions. Other court decisions underscored the importance of properly documenting firearms training. One decision dismissed the claims against a law enforcement entity that maintained thorough records that showed the law enforcement personnel had been trained. Another decision upheld a jury’s conclusion that undocumented police training did not constitute adequate training.”

The IRS-CI regularly failed to ensure their agents met firearms training and qualification requirements. This failure could have grave consequences for the public. As noted in the report:

“If there is insufficient oversight, special agents in possession of firearms who are not properly trained and qualified could endanger other special agents and the public.”

Discharge incidents often went unreported

CI management is required to be notified when a special agent discharges their weapon. CI must report all accidental discharge incidents externally to the TIGTA OI and internally to the NCITA and the Director of Field Operations. Despite these directives, CI did not always properly disclose accidental discharges:

“we found that four accidental discharges were not properly reported. This included two that were not reported to both to the TIGTA OI and the NCITA, one that was not reported to the TIGTA OI, and one that was not reported internally to the NCITA.”

These cases were not reported as a result of CI’s failure to ensure that proper actions were taken after an accidental discharge and conflicting or unclear reporting information.

Agents did not undergo remedial training after discharges due to special agent negligence 

Compounding their mistakes, CI agents did not always provide remedial training when an accidental discharge occurred. Even when they did undergo training, the standards remained wildly inconsistent. The report found that:

“two of the four use of force coordinators stated that they may require the special agent to participate in some type of remedial training, one stated that the special agent would be counseled, and one stated that there would be no additional training required.”

Given the history the IRS has of misusing its service weapons, the Biden proposal to give the agency even more power and money is alarming to law-abiding taxpayers.