Irate taxpayers assaulting IRS workers
(KTVU) - Long lines and hot tempers - it's what you might expect at taxpayer assistance centers across the country. But here in the bay area, it appears some people may have gone too far.
There was a steady line Tuesday at the taxpayer assistance center at the Oakland Federal Building. It's where people are supposed to get help, not get hurt.
But this week, prosecutors charged Hali Imani Fletcher with assaulting an IRS worker at this center after being told that she wouldn't be able to get the tax transcripts she needed for school. There were just too many people waiting.
Investigators say that's when Fletcher cursed at an IRS employee and then "purposely threw her shoulder and elbow" into the worker as she went to get a security guard. Fletcher is now facing federal charges.
Arlette Lee is a special agent with the IRS. Her office is in the same building as the tax center. If workers push a "duress" button, agents come running.
"It's never a good idea to become violent, especially when you're in a federal facility like this," Lee said.
In another case, a man named Hung Ha went to a taxpayer center in San Jose to see why his requests for tax refunds were denied. Court records allege that over the course of six visits, Ha was hostile, spat at and threatened to bite a guard and said he would return with a bomb and a gun.
In a third case, authorities say Ayman Hawari began pulling his hair and hyperventilating at a Salinas taxpayer center after being told that he couldn't get his tax refund because he had filed too late. Hawari allegedly said, "I'll be back with my gun."
We spoke to two taxpayers who said they were in line because they couldn't get anyone on the phone. Even with the frustration, both said the attacks go too far.
"I don't think it's a good idea," said Barbara Cooks. "They're just doing they're job."
"You have to wait," said Mary Guzman. "Either wait, you know, or else they're going to throw you out if you're being so violent."
Rod Ammari, special agent in charge of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in San Francisco, said, "As frustrating as it is for a taxpayer to take time of from work, go sit in an IRS TAC for three or four hours at a time to get their IRS issues resolved, when they get frustrated and they lash out at IRS employees, making threats, veiled threats and sometimes actual physical assault on employees, the actual threat itself is a violation of federal law. So by making a threat to hurt or kill an IRS employee, you've committed a federal crime."
In California, the IRS typically sees 100 to 200 threat or assault cases a year, with spikes around tax time.
The busy season typically starts around February. So the message here is, bring your documents and anything else you may need - including your patience.