A Qualitative Inquiry into Mission Creep at the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service
International Journal of Public Administration,
October (4th Quarter/Autumn)
In the public administration literature, little exists on the criminal enforcement of the United States tax laws. Whereas many are aware of how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) conducts the administrative function of selecting tax returns for audit, and about its power to assess interest andpenalties for underpayment, the criminal enforcement of tax law presents itself as a world apart.<br><br>Based on 30 interviews with current and retired IRS special agents, this study explores the choices they make in the furtherance of their self-interest and the public’s interest. Major insights include the documentation of “mission creep” that has taken the agency’s effort away from its primary purpose. Unlike other instances of this organizational phenomenon, this tendency has been driven by agents’ personal preferences and untempered by IRS management efforts.