By Erin McCann – Healthcare IT News
The Internal Revenue Service could now be facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that it improperly accessed and stole the health records of some 10 million Americans, including medical records of all California state judges.
According to a report by Courthousenews.com, an unnamed HIPAA-covered entity in California is suing the IRS, alleging that some 60 million medical records from 10 million patients were stolen by 15 IRS agents. The personal health information seized on March 11, 2011, included psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual/drug treatment and other medical treatment data.
“This is an action involving the corruption and abuse of power by several Internal Revenue Service agents,” wrote Robert E. Barnes, attorney representing the John Doe Company, in the official complaint. “No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search. IT personnel at the scene, a HIPPA facility warning on the building and the IT portion of the searched premises, and the company executives each warned the IRS agents of these privileged records,” the complaint continued.
According to the complaint, the IRS agents obtained a search warrant for financial data pertaining to a former employee of the John Doe Company, however, “it did not authorize any seizure of any healthcare or medical record of any persons, least of all third parties completely unrelated to the matter,” the complaint read.
The IRS did not respond to multiple inquiries regarding the case. [read more]
By Mike Masnick – TechDirt
For years, we’ve been critics of red light cameras, which have been shown time and time again to actually increase accidents rather than decrease them — which you would think should be the goal. Of course, we all know that’s not really the goal. The goal has always been revenue generation for cities. If they actually wanted to increase safety there’s a very simple way to do it: you increase the timing of yellow lights (and for the places, like where I live, that don’t have an interval between when one direction turns red and the other turns green, you add that brief interval where all directions are red). Do that, and you increase safety and decrease accidents. And it’s incredibly easy and cheap to do.
But, of course, various governments hate that idea, because it would decrease the massive revenue from red light camera fines. That’s why over and over and over again, we see that various governments are caught redhanded lowering the time for yellow lights. Make no mistake about it: this increases the danger, and puts many more people at risk. Stupidly, it probably also could end up costing the city more in terms of having to respond to more accidents and deal with more injuries. But, boy, I’m sure it pumps up the revenue on red light camera violations.
The latest example of this comes via Darby Keene, who points out that the Florida Department of Transportation quietly tweaked its own standards for yellow light intervals in 2011, allowing them to be shorter without breaking the law (after many cities have been caught violating official standards). And, of course, various cities quickly did lower the interval timing. Yes, revenue at the expense of public safety. Research has shown that reducing the time of a yellow light by a mere half a second can double the number of red light camera citations — and in some cases, the changes to FDOT’s regulations meant cities reduced the length of a yellow light by an entire second. Smell that? It’s the smell of revenue for cities, intermingled with wrecked cars and destroyed lives! [read more]
By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge
We are currently reading through the just released 54 page report from the IRS’ Acting Deputy Inspector General Michael McKenney, but for now here are the key excerpts from the findings section.
From Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review
The mission of the IRS is to provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all. According to IRS Policy Statement 1-1, IRS employees accomplish this mission by being impartial and handling tax matters in a manner that will promote public confidence. However, the criteria developed by the Determinations Unit gives the appearance that the IRS is not impartial in conducting its mission. The criteria focused narrowly on the names and policy positions of organizations instead of tax-exempt laws and Treasury Regulations. Criteria for selecting applications for the team of specialists should focus on the activities of the organizations and whether they fulfill the requirements of the law. Using the names or policy positions of organizations is not an appropriate basis for identifying applications for review by the team of specialists.
* * *
The Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names. These applications (hereafter referred to as potential political cases) were forwarded to a team of specialists for review. Subsequently, the Determinations Unit expanded the criteria to inappropriately include organizations with other specific names (Patriots and 9/12) or policy positions. While the criteria used by the Determinations Unit specified particular organization names, the team of specialists was also processing applications from groups with names other than those identified in the criteria. The inappropriate and changing criteria may have led to inconsistent treatment of organizations applying for tax-exempt status. For example, we identified some organizations’ applications with evidence of significant political campaign intervention that were not forwarded to the team of specialists for processing but should have been. We also identified applications that were forwarded to the team of specialists but did not have indications of significant political campaign intervention. All applications that were forwarded to the team of specialists experienced substantial delays in processing. Although the IRS has taken some action, it will need to do more so that the public has reasonable assurance that applications are processed without unreasonable delay in a fair and impartial manner in the future.
The Determinations Unit developed and began using criteria to identify potential political cases for review that inappropriately identified specific groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their names or policy positions instead of developing criteria based on tax-exempt laws and Treasury Regulations. [read more]
By Charles C. Johnson – The Daily Caller
Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official at the center of the decision to target tea party groups for burdensome tax scrutiny, signed paperwork granting tax-exempt status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a shady charity headed by the president’s half-brother that operated illegally for years.
According to the organization’s filings, Lerner approved the foundation’s tax status within a month of filing, an unprecedented timeline that stands in stark contrast to conservative organizations that have been waiting for more than three years, in some cases, for approval.
Lerner also appears to have broken with the norms of tax-exemption approval by granting retroactive tax-exempt status to Malik Obama’s organization.
The National Legal and Policy Center filed an official complaint with the IRS in May 2011 asking why the foundation was being allowed to solicit tax-deductible contributions when it had not even applied for an IRS determination. In a New York Post article dated May 8, 2011, an officer of the foundation admitted, “We haven’t been able to find someone with the expertise” to apply for tax-exempt status.
Nevertheless, a month later, the Barack H. Obama Foundation had flown through the grueling application process. Lerner granted the organization a 501(c) determination and even gave it a retroactive tax exemption dating back to December 2008.
The group’s available paperwork suggests an extremely hurried application and approval process. For example, the group’s 990 filings for 2008 and 2009 were submitted to the IRS on May 30, 2011, and its 2010 filing was submitted on May 23, 2011.
Lerner signed the group’s approval on June 26, 2011. [read more]
By Sam Rolley – Personal Liberty Digest
Young Americans have had a pretty tough time getting a start in life since the economy tanked in 2009. And according to a new poll, the bad economy and government’s inability to do anything to assuage the pain has led a majority of younger Americans to question the value of big government.
A poll recently conducted by the Young America’s Foundation found 61 percent of college-age students believe the government has no business being a part of their day-to-day lives.
The poll also indicates:
- 50 percent of young Americans think government is hurting economic recovery.
- 42 percent in the demographic see the Federal government as an obstacle to achieving the American dream.
- 58 percent believe elected officials should focus on decreasing taxes.
- 38 percent believe government should cut back on regulation.
- 76 percent would like to see decreases Federal spending.
- 51 Percent believe the overall size of government should be decreased.
A majority of young Americans (66 percent) hold entrepreneurship in high regard, and 44 percent believe that the market ought to be freed from government meddling. [read more]