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Obama forces top US tax official to quit

May 16, 2013 14:45 IST

Barack ObamaUS President Barack Obama has forced the acting head of the Internal Revenue Service to resign amid furor over the tax agency's handling of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

"It's inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it.

"I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives," Obama said in a statement to the press.

Following his meeting with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Obama on Wednesday announced that the Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Steven Miller, has been asked to resign.

"Today, Secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, because given the controversy surrounding this audit, it's important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward," Obama said.

Such a step by the US President is seen as an effort on his part to silence the critique over an incident that has rocked the nation for the past few days.

"The action was Obama's first substantive step to address a political uproar stemming from the IRS's disclosure that it had targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status," The Washington Post reported.

The Obama Administration also took the extraordinary step of releasing the letter to the press by Lew to Miller asking him to resign 'to restore public trust and confidence in the IRS.'

"I'll do everything in my power to make sure nothing like this happens again by holding the responsible parties accountable, by putting in place new checks and new safeguards, and going forward, by making sure that the law is applied as it should be -- in a fair and impartial way," Obama said.

"We are going to have to make sure that the laws are clear so that we can have confidence that they are enforced in a fair and impartial way, and that there's not too much ambiguity surrounding these laws," said the US President.

The House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer welcomed the White House action.

"The actions taken by the IRS were unacceptable, and it is appropriate and necessary for the responsible parties to be held accountable. There is no place for these kinds of practices in our country, and it merits a thorough review to ensure this does not happen again," he said.

However, Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, said despite the resignation of the acting IRS administrator, Obama continues to search for a scapegoat for his own administration's misdeeds.

"This insufficient action comes more than two years after this offensive abuse of power. Meanwhile, the American public continues to lose trust in a government that this president seeks to give even more power," he said.

Image: US President Barack Obama speaks | Photograph: Jessica Rinald/Reuters

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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