By Phil Valentine
Talk Show Host
NASHVILLE — The revelation on Friday (5/10) that the IRS was targeting conservative groups came as a shock to much of America, especially those on the right side of the aisle. Once the story broadened on Monday to include more groups and more abuse it became apparent that there’s something big going on here. For me, it was all simply a confirmation of something I’ve been experiencing for some time. In fact, I’ve been chronicling the experience on my radio show.
A couple of years ago I began getting inquiries from the IRS. They wanted me to explain certain items I’d taken as deductions. I had the same experience back in the mid-‘90s when I first moved to Philadelphia. I’m sure this isn’t the technical term for it but for lack of a better label I was “mail-audited” three times in 18 months. This was during the Clinton administration and I figured when I landed in Philadelphia to do talk radio I also landed on the administration’s radar. Again, it was petty stuff like making me dig up receipts from prior tax years and fill out all sorts of annoying forms. Once I satisfied the requests for one year another inquiry for another year would begin almost immediately.
So when this all started again with me a couple of years ago I decided to contact some of my friends in the talk radio business. I e-mailed back and forth with some high profile talkers. A couple of them admitted they were going through the same thing but told me in no uncertain terms that they did not want their names made public. That’s how frightening the IRS can be.
I, on the other hand, was sick and tired of it so each time I got a letter I shared it with my listeners. I knew I was running the risk of damaging my reputation. After all, being investigated by the IRS puts all sorts of ugly thoughts in people’s minds. I also knew I would be inviting more ire from the IRS but I thought the story was important enough that I needed to tell my audience what was going on.
I must admit, the first couple of letters I got from the IRS threatening to seize my house were scary but I knew I had done nothing wrong. They began to target my mortgage interest deduction. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats had limited how much mortgage interest you could deduct. The IRS disallowed all of my mortgage interest, not just what would’ve been above the limit set by Congress. All of it. And they sent me a bill for tens of thousands of dollars. I knew they were wrong so I went through the pain of digging up the information they needed. That wasn’t enough. They wanted more documentation from the mortgage companies, one of which had been absorbed during the mortgage meltdown by another bank. Finally, I obtained the exact forms they were looking for and sent them in. No acknowledgement from the IRS. They just moved on to another year and started the process all over again.
What’s amusing is about the third time they asked for the same documentation for another year and once I had gathered all the paperwork and sent it in they discovered that I had made a mathematical mistake to my detriment. They sent me a check for several thousand dollars. I could tell it was sent begrudgingly because the check arrived with no explanation, no note, no nothing. At first I thought it was one of those tax scams since it came from out of the blue. My wife even encouraged me to just throw it away. I called the IRS and after working my way through the labyrinth of departments finally got word that, yes, the check was indeed real.
That was just a few months ago. Now they’re on to another tax year, asking for the same information, asking me to fill out the same worksheets and the same forms. In fact, the mortgage worksheet is so complicated I called the IRS helpline and no one there fully understood how to fill it out. One nice lady told me, “You have to understand, we don’t write this stuff. Congress does.”
To be clear, I’m not saying that Bill Clinton was behind my IRS harassment during the ‘90s and I’m not saying President Obama is behind it now. I heard similar stories from a couple of liberal friends during the George H.W. Bush years. What I’m saying is someone inside the IRS is misusing their power for political retribution, despite what the IRS is saying. There are just too many examples of it. I urge my colleagues in talk radio to come forward if they’ve been experiencing the same harassment. Don’t be afraid. If you’re clean like me you have nothing to hide but this is one of those times when we can collectively be a force for good to put a stop to this once and for all. No matter the political party in power.
Phil Valentine is a Nashville-based radio talk show host syndicated nationally by Cumulus Media. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.