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Unbridled Power: Inside the Secret Culture of the IRS Hardcover – March, 1997

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

America's worst fears about the Internal Revenue Service are true. As former IRS employee Shelley L. Davis shows, the most hated federal agency in Washington, D.C., is a cesspool of corruption, incompetence, and hubris. Her Kafka-like insider's account of how IRS bigwigs mismanage their employees, destroy incriminating documents, and obstruct congressional inquiries is both a highly entertaining narrative (Davis tells her story with panache) and an extremely frustrating one (because this is where the money goes). Consider this "one long whistle-blow," Davis tells readers, and, indeed, she has performed a public service by writing her book.

From Library Journal

Davis was the IRS's first?and last?official historian. Here she provides more fuel for the ire of those who hate the IRS. She reveals some of the history she uncovered, including inept restructuring of the IRS's computer system, compilation of an "enemies list" even more extensive than Richard Nixon's, lies by IRS administrators to an ethics panel, destruction of records (including tax returns and taxpayer payments), and a code of silence that kept all of this from reaching the public. Davis found herself under investigation in retaliation for reporting a planned destruction of records?a report she was required to make according to the IRS's own rules. She resigned after seven years with the IRS rather than have her reputation tarnished, as she had seen happen to other whistle-blowers. Davis's work is clearly a one-sided and personal presentation, but her allegations are supported by official records. For all libraries.?A.J. Sobczak, formerly with California State Univ., Northridge
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harperbusiness; 1st edition (March 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887308295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887308291
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,447,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Shelly Davis has written a book that reveals some of the internal workings of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS as revealed by Davis is a corrupt, paranoid organization that goes to more trouble to cover up its own failings and illegal activities than it expends doing its legitimate job. Davis shows that the law is no barrier to IRS proceedings. In particular she describes the IRS repeated and apparently systematic efforts to conceal its operations by destroying internal records in violation of the Federal Records Act. Davis writes in a straightforward narrative style suitable for an account of bureaucratic bumbling by one of the nations most important governmental agencies. If you have had an interest in the Internal Revenue Service, tax problms or an interest in how bureaucracies work this book is essential reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Let me start by saying that I do not condone the present state of the IRS and that, like a recent presidential candidate, I would like to see the IRS abolished as we know it. However, I feel that Unbridled Power did not even come close to delivering on what is promised in the synopsis and cover flaps. Shelley Davis states that unethical, and even unlawful, behavior is rampant within the IRS. Yet, within 260 pages of text, she provides us with only a few such examples, and the frequency with which she refers to these few examples undermines her claim that such behavior is commonplace.

The author's descriptions of her own actions toward the end of her employment at the IRS further erode her credibility regarding the severity of the problem. Davis claims that often times the IRS has a blatant disregard for federal laws and that certain actions by IRS employees could be construed as a violation of these laws. However, when she was asked point blank by an IRS investigator if charges should be brought, Davis reponds that what she really wants is "change". Also, just prior to her departure, Davis is asked to submit a report detailing her experiences at the IRS, a report which she readily admits would be the perfect opportunity to memorialize the atrocious actions she has witnessed and the people responsible for these actions. Once again, Davis demurs and decides to "not burn any bridges."

If the actions of the IRS are so egregious, why isn't an outside agency such as the FBI involved? Davis complains that the IRS is incapable of policing itself, yet all her efforts to "whistle blow" (a favorite phrase of hers) were conducted along the very same reporting channels Davis derides as being inadequate and ineffective.
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Format: Hardcover
Before I read this book, I assumed that it was the story of a single individual's plight inside of the IRS. I thought it could be a questionable account, perhaps based on unsubstantiable facts. In fact, the book's subject matter is much broader than only Shelley Davis' experience. Ms. Davis, in true historical form, describes as reality an organization that should only exist in the minds of science-fiction writers. Even if only a fraction of her allegations are true, this work represents an irrecoverably scathing indictment on an admittedly powerful government agency. Although she never makes the connection, she paints a picture of official organized crime, a government body out of control, operating in the underworld of power and intimidation, where the law is openly despised. It is clear that the IRS requires immediate and extensive reform, in order that it might be made accountable to the people of the United States
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Format: Paperback
This is not some lunatic fringe wacko attacking the government, but someone who truly wanted to work to improve the IRS. The reports of serious lack of morals or ethics by hign ranking government employees was scary. The highest praise I can give this book is that it reads like a true history... documented and detailed... trying to be objective even when the IRS turned on her. In the end, you realize that the only 'reform' possible is to abolish the whole system.
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Format: Paperback
I read this before I started writing reviews on Amazon; this certainly would have deserved one. I'm writing from memory at least ten years later. What I retain is a sense of the flavor of the book more than the details. It describes a very self-protective, self-serving bureaucracy that is unresponsive to the taxpayer and rolls over for politicians.

At the time I read it I thought "there but for the grace of God go I." Most of my problems have been simple and resolved without conflict. Now, however, they simply refuse to accept that my foreign wife exists, even though they have spoken to her three times and have copies of every official document she possesses. They have gone against the Internal Revenue Manual at least three ways and seem oblivious and unrepentant. I went right to my bookshelf for this volume.
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