- 39.1.1 Professionalism
- 18.104.22.168 Our Special Responsibility to the Internal Revenue Service and to the Public
- 22.214.171.124 Standards of Ethical and Professional Conduct
- 126.96.36.199.1 Matters for Referral to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
- 188.8.131.52.2 Matters to be Referred to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) for Consideration
- 184.108.40.206.3 Follow Up and Investigation
- 220.127.116.11.4 Matters Which May Be Handled Under Local Procedures
- 18.104.22.168.5 Annual Report
- 22.214.171.124 Employee Conduct and Ethics
Part 39. General Legal Services
Chapter 1. Professionalism and Government Ethics Programs
Section 1. Professionalism
Members of the Office of Chief Counsel play a special role in the administration of the internal revenue laws. The mission of the Internal Revenue Service is to apply the tax law with integrity and fairness. As the independent legal counsel to the Service, the responsibility of the Office of Chief Counsel is to ensure that the Service is able to fulfill this mission. The Office of Chief Counsel does this by providing the correct legal interpretation of the internal revenue laws, representing the Service in litigation, and providing all other legal support needed by the Service in its administration of the tax law.
The Office of Chief Counsel must carry out these responsibilities by interpreting the law with complete impartiality. The duty of service requires attorneys in the Office of Chief Counsel to think and act to ensure that the American public receives the fair and correct interpretation of our tax law. It is not to provide an answer that is most beneficial to the government, but to provide the answer that most accurately reflects the meaning of the tax code.
The Office of Chief Counsel is a professional services firm whose function is to serve the Service. In that regard, members of the Office Chief Counsel must dedicate themselves to providing the highest level of legal service to help the Service achieve its program goals. This demands excellence in our work as well as timeliness of the responses. Furthermore, the Office of Chief Counsel cannot adequately serve the Service if we fail to exercise courtesy in dealing with the client, the public and other members of the Office of Chief Counsel. Everyone is encouraged to maintain the high level of professionalism that is required by the legal profession, especially in avoiding any overreaching or unnecessary demands on taxpayers.
The Office of Chief Counsel is committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct. Our employees must adhere to the letter and the spirit of the Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the Office of Government Ethics Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, the Department of the Treasury Employee Rules of Conduct, and Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Department of the Treasury in handling our cases. Moreover, our legal practice and conduct should always be characterized by adherence to the highest standards of professionalism, honesty, and fair play. Allegations or evidence of employee misconduct must be investigated and acted upon in a uniform and consistent manner.
The Office of Chief Counsel recognizes that uniform procedures must be established which will assure consistent treatment of allegations or evidence of employee misconduct, unprofessional behavior, or the failure to follow established procedures, and which will build public and internal confidence in the processes used to investigate and evaluate such allegations or evidence of misconduct. In addition, the organization recognizes the need for clarification of which matters should be referred to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and which matters should be retained and handled as management matters. Finally, the Office of Chief Counsel recognizes that inconsistent treatment of employees may result from confusion as to whether an event should be dealt with in the evaluation/feedback or disciplinary process, or whether an allegation warrants referral to higher levels of management. To address these issues, the Office of Chief Counsel is establishing the following procedures, which cover matters to be referred to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations), or local management, and the investigative procedures which may follow such referrals.
The procedures described below apply to all allegations or evidence of misconduct by a Counsel employee received from any source, including:
An administrative or judicial body
A taxpayer or other member of the public
An employee of the Internal Revenue Service, Office of Chief Counsel, or other Treasury bureau
An official or employee of another federal agency
Allegations or evidence concerning the possible existence of criminal or other misconduct constituting a violation of law, rules or regulations, or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety should be referred to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) for referral to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). See Treasury Order No. 115–01 (January 14, 1999) and Treasury Directive No. 40-01 (September 21, 1992).
Complaints or allegations referred by the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) to TIGTA for investigation include allegations or evidence of potential criminal conduct occurring on the job or in connection with official duties, and all integrity issues, unless the conduct is otherwise covered by established procedures (e.g., EEO complaints, grievances, and employee tax compliance issues).
Examples of matters which should be referred to TIGTA include, but are not limited to, allegations of:
Misuse of office or official credentials
Unauthorized outside employment raising conflict of interest issues
Unauthorized access to taxpayer information
Referral Procedures. While all employees have the right to refer matters directly to TIGTA (see paragraph (5), below), it assists in the management of Counsel offices if managers and executives are made aware of allegations of misconduct of subordinates. Accordingly, referrals should generally be made through the management chain. Management may be able to add additional information to the referral that TIGTA will find useful in determining whether to investigate the complaint.
Managers should refer all potential TIGTA matters to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) through the management chain. If an allegation involves an individual in the chain of referral, the referral should be made to the next higher official in the chain.
The foregoing referral requirement does not limit any person’s right to report an allegation of misconduct directly to TIGTA for investigation.
Questions as to whether a matter should be referred to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) should be coordinated with the Claims, Labor and Personnel Law (CLP) Branch of the Office of the Associate Chief Counsel (GLS).
Matters not described in CCDM 126.96.36.199.1, Matters for Referral to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or reserved for local handling in CCDM 188.8.131.52.4, Matters Which May Be Handled under Local Procedures, will also be referred through the appropriate management structure to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations).
Allegations or evidence of an employee’s serious or significant failure to comply with the accepted standards of legal practice within the Office of Chief Counsel, including the standards of practice set forth in the CCDM, will be referred through the appropriate management chain to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations).
Serious or significant matters include actions which potentially prejudice the client’s interest and which are more than an isolated, unintentional occurrence. There may be situations, however, when an isolated, unintentional matter must be referred due to the dollar impact, sensitivity or significance of the issue, or the importance of the legal standard to the efficiency or mission of the organization. It is in the client’s interest to protect the taxpayer’s right to fair and ethical treatment by Counsel employees, and to assure that the taxpayer’s interests are not prejudiced as the result of unprofessional conduct.
Examples of serious or significant matters which should be referred include, but are not limited to, the following:
A nonfrivolous allegation or evidence of professional misconduct
The failure to properly coordinate a legal position, settlement, or policy matter with the appropriate party as required by the CCDM, i.e., a Notice case, a case involving a prior criminal matter, etc.
The failure to protect a statute of limitations
Any alleged ethical violation
Repeatedly failing to meet pleading dates
Managers should coordinate with the CLP Branch of GLS as to whether a matter requires referral to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations). In determining whether a serious or significant matter is involved, managers and CLP should consider, among other factors, the following:
Whether the failure to follow standard practices and procedures was willful
The number of similar or related instances
The effect of the employee’s actions on the functioning of the Office
Upon receipt by a manager of an allegation or evidence of a matter which is referable to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) under the above provisions, the matter should be referred through the appropriate management chain to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations). If a matter involves an individual within that management structure, the referral should be made to the next higher official in the management chain.
The Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) shall determine the appropriate action to be taken with respect to referrals to that office. While referral of a matter to higher levels of management serves the objective of informing management of matters of which it should be aware, the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) may determine that a referred matter should be handled locally rather than centrally. Such matters may be returned for further investigation and handling under local procedures. See CCDM 184.108.40.206.4, Matters Which May Be Handled Under Local Procedures.
The Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) shall determine whether a referred matter warrants a centrally coordinated investigation by the Office. The Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) shall, with the assistance of the appropriate Division Counsel or Associate Chief Counsel and the CLP Branch of GLS, determine the composition of the investigative team. In matters in which the action in question results in actual prejudice to the client’s interest, and in matters which have been returned by TIGTA for further investigation, the investigative team shall generally include individuals outside the employee’s office, but may include, at the discretion of the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations), individuals from within the office in which the alleged misconduct occurred.
Upon completion of an investigation requested by the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations), the investigative report will be transmitted to the Division Counsel or Associate Chief Counsel, with a copy to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations). Management shall consult with the CLP Branch of GLS regarding whether the matter should be dealt with through the evaluation/feedback process or through disciplinary procedures, and if the latter, as to an appropriate range of discipline.
The Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) is responsible for reporting to the TIGTA on the disposition of matters investigated at the request of the TIGTA.
Matters which may be handled under local procedures include evaluation and discipline matters which:
Are covered under other formal procedures within the Office of Chief Counsel, the Treasury Department, or the federal government
Do not require referral to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (see CCDM 220.127.116.11.1).
Do not require referral to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) (see CCDM 18.104.22.168.2)
Have been returned to local management by the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) for handling under local procedures
Matters returned by the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) (including matters returned by TIGTA), and other matters which, after consultation with CLP, have been determined not to require referral to the Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations) will be handled as directed by the Division Counsel or Associate Chief Counsel.
Examples of matters which may be handled under local procedures, absent special circumstances, include, but are not limited to:
Employee tax compliance issues
Personnel practices subject to grievance procedures
Failure to follow standard office procedures
The Office of Chief Counsel will publish an annual report that will inform employees and the public about the Office’s actions regarding allegations and evidence of misconduct. The manner of presentation will ensure that the privacy rights of employees are protected.
The rules governing employee conduct and ethics are set forth in the following provisions:
Office of Government Ethics’ Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 C.F.R. Part 2635
Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Department of the Treasury, 5 C.F.R. Part 3101
Department of the Treasury Employee Rules of Conduct, 31 C.F.R. Part 0
Office of Personnel Management Regulations on Employee Responsibilities and Conduct, 5 C.F.R. Part 735
Attorney personnel are also bound by the professional codes of the states where they are admitted to the bar. In addition, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association, is recognized by this Office as a generally accepted ethical standard for attorneys. The Office of Chief Counsel will not discipline an attorney for a violation of these codes except to the extent a violation of same is also a violation of the aforementioned documents. A violation of a professional code could likewise be a violation of the applicable ethics authorities if the violation of the code brought discredit upon the Service or the Treasury Department. Bringing discredit upon the Service or the Treasury Department could subject the attorney to discipline by the Office of Chief Counsel.
It is the responsibility of each employee to seek information and guidance from their management chain if he or she is in doubt as to what is considered acceptable conduct in specific situations. Management will seek clarification from the Associate Chief Counsel (GLS) whenever necessary.