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Leah Remini calls for federal action: Here’s the frustrating reason the IRS may not answer

As the start of the second season of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath approaches on Tuesday, media and public interest is ramping way up. Leah has promised that the second season will focus on “the abusive practices of Scientology — sexual abuse and physical abuse,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

Leah also said her goal is not just to spread awareness of Scientology’s mistreatment of its members but also to inspire a federal investigation. “I’m talking about the FBI, the police, the Department of Justice, the IRS,” she said.

The FBI did investigate Scientology for allegations of human trafficking in 2009-2010, but that investigation didn’t result in charges, and we think that probe ended for complex reasons.

The IRS granted Scientology tax exempt status in 1993 after a two-year auditing process that began under Fred Goldberg, the IRS commissioner under President George H. W. Bush. In Alex Gibney’s movie Going Clear, we helped explain how the church put immense pressure on Goldberg through years of harassment and lawsuits aimed at many IRS officials. But finally, after an October 1991 meeting between Goldberg and Scientology leader David Miscavige, the commissioner agreed to begin the process that resulted in the church gaining tax exemption.


And tax exempt status has been a boon to Scientology not only because the church was able to walk away from a billion-dollar tax debt. It also provides many other protections that we’ve seen play out in courtrooms in many other cases. “The church is protected,” Going Clear author Lawrence Wright said in the film, explaining that courts and law enforcement agencies are reluctant to pry into Scientology’s internal matters because of the shield that tax exemption gives it.

So what will it take to get the IRS to re-examine its agreement with the Church of Scientology? Will Leah Remini and the groundswell of her show be enough?

Recently, Jeffrey Augustine explained to us how his research suggested that for some completely infuriating reasons, the bar Leah has to get over is higher than it might have been at one time.

Until 1998, he tells us, the number of IRS officials who could open an audit of the Church of Scientology was actually somewhat considerable.

JEFFREY: Until that time, a revocation hearing of Scientology’s tax exempt status could have been called by one of four “regional commissioners” of the IRS.

THE BUNKER: That’s no longer the case?

JEFFREY: No, it’s not.

THE BUNKER: Why can’t a regional commissioner call for an audit of Scientology today?

JEFFREY: Because there are no regional commissioners.

THE BUNKER: Say what?

JEFFREY: Congress eliminated the position of regional commissioner in the “IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.”

THE BUNKER: Is this a joke?

JEFFREY: No, I’m afraid it’s not. And the unintended consequence is that it’s become much harder for the IRS to question the tax exemption of churches.


JEFFREY: Well, a really good example happened in 2007 when the IRS tried to audit the tax exempt status of the Living Word Christian Center in Minnesota. The investigation into the church was approved by an IRS official who had the title “Director of Exempt Organizations, Examination.”

THE BUNKER: That’s a pretty heavy title.

JEFFREY: Well, it wasn’t heavy enough. The federal district court in Minnesota found that the “Director of Exempt Organizations, Examination” wasn’t high enough in the IRS structure to call for a revocation hearing for a church. According to existing law, only a regional commissioner is high-ranking enough to call for such an investigation.

THE BUNKER: And that’s a problem because there aren’t any actual regional commissioners.

JEFFREY: Exactly.

THE BUNKER: So even though the IRS wanted to investigate Living Word Christian Center and had sent an official notice of it…

JEFFREY: The judge sided with the church and said the IRS couldn’t do that because it hadn’t been initiated by a regional commissioner.

THE BUNKER: A position that no longer exists.

JEFFREY: Precisely.

THE BUNKER: So is the IRS completely powerless?

JEFFREY: No, it just means that the bar for Leah is set even higher than it might have been before 1998. With no regional commissioners able to call for an investigation, she’d have to go to the top and convince the IRS commissioner himself, a man named John Koskinen, to call for an investigation. Or Koskinen’s boss, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. And according to the current law, one other person could initiate a probe, the Commissioner of Tax Exempt and Government Entities, a woman named Sunita Lough.

THE BUNKER: Well, that’s how Scientology pulled it off in 1991, right? They went directly to the commissioner himself, Fred Goldberg. So Leah will pretty much have to do the same thing?

JEFFREY: Yes, but Commissioner Koskinen has already been battered and bruised. The IRS was under heavy bombardment by the GOP during Obama’s final two years and its budget was severely slashed. I don’t know if Koskinen is really interested in the kind of fight that Scientology would put up.

THE BUNKER: Sounds like a push from the president himself might be what’s needed. Has Trump said anything about investigating churches?

JEFFREY: Yes he has, actually. He’s very much against it.

THE BUNKER: Ah. Well, it appears Leah’s work really is cut out for her.

JEFFREY: I’m afraid so.

THE BUNKER: Previously, Jeffrey, we helped readers by explaining that online petitions were a waste of time, and that they should submit complaints directly to the IRS itself. What’s your advice to readers today?

JEFFREY: I heard from a lot of people who submitted those complaints. There’s just no question that the IRS has plenty of complaints to act on in regards to Scientology. So now, if readers want the IRS to act, it’s time to put pressure on those three people who can actually initiate a probe: Koskinen, Mnuchin, and Lough.

THE BUNKER: Who knows. The way Leah’s show is going, she just might have enough influence to make that happen. Thanks, Jeffrey, for helping us see what needs to be done.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,839 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,822 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,596 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,942 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,436 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,476 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,188 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 714 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,803 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,943 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,263 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,238 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 594 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,896 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,003 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,405 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,278 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 859 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,364 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,608 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,717 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on August 11, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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