WHISTLE-BLOWER • Jennifer Long
She took on the IRS and won. Now the mightiest government bureaucacy of all is making her pay.
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THE MANIFOLD OUTRAGES of the Internal Revenue Service that Jennifer Long and other whistle-blowers described at Senate hearings last year have returned in living color. In the months since Long testified that her Houston office managers were out of control, she has been forced to work in the IRS’s version of solitary confinement.
“They won’t let me talk to any of the other employees or let them talk to me,” says the 47-year-old field agent, whose willingness to testify without having her identity concealed made her a hero to millions of taxpayers—and a pariah to management. “They won’t let me work at home or participate in any of the extra-work programs. Until I testified, I had never had a failing evaluation in my entire fifteen-year career. Since then, all my evaluations have been failing.”
In her bombshell appearance before the Senate Finance Committee last September—testimony that eventually helped lead to the recent landmark IRS reform bill—Long revealed how the IRS rigged tax returns, fabricated evidence, and cajoled its employees to “stick it to” taxpayers, particularly those who were poor or vulnerable and did not have the means to fight back. Long testified that employees were even bribed or intimidated to fabricate evidence against their own colleagues. After Long filed a string of grievances against her bosses, she herself became a target. Working at home—as do most field agents—Long was stunned to hear an IRS inspector pounding on her door, demanding that she surrender her files. “I still find it hard to believe that they came to my home,” she says. “I’ve never heard of them doing that to an employee unless there was a criminal investigation.” The shock and embarrassment of that incident persuaded Long to go public, though some kind of reprisal was a foregone conclusion. “The retaliation has made my life more interesting,” she admits. “Other IRS employees have taken risks to be supportive. Strangers approach me in elevators and hug my neck. That’s made it easier.”
Her career in limbo, Long recently took a course in certified public accounting with an eye to becoming a CPA (she had majored in Spanish and taken some accounting classes at the University of Texas at Austin). “The upside to all the intense scrutinizing,” she says cheerfully, “is that it has made me like accounting again.”