Responding to press questions about the IRS scandal, White House spokesperson Jay Carney claimed that the IRS is an “independent agency.” At the Federalist Society’s new Executive Branch Review blog, former Assistant Attorney General Eileen O’Connor, who oversaw the Justice Department’s Tax Division, explains that Carney was quite wrong on this point.
Most Executive Branch departments are headed by a Cabinet Secretary (except for the Department of Justice, which is headed by the Attorney General of the United States) who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Within the Departments are agencies that carry out the various responsibilities of the Department. They, too, are headed by Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees. An “independent agency” is an agency of the federal government that is not part of an Executive Branch department. These are generally boards and commissions, like the National Labor Relations Board and the Federal Communications Commission.
But just as the Federal Bureau of Investigation is part of the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service is part of the Department of Treasury. As with other federal agencies, each is headed by a Senate-confirmed Presidential appointee. Neither of these is an “independent agency.”
Ammon Simon offers more on this point here.
Not only is the IRS not an “independent” agency, but it appears that the substantial bonuses received by the head of the IRS tax-exempt division when the targeting of conservative groups occurred would have been approved by the White House because they exceeded $25,000. This official is now in charge of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office.