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Embattled IRS official retires before ax falls

| Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Lois Lerner, at the center of the Internal Revenue Service scandal, stepped down on Monday as an internal review reportedly called for her removal because of mismanagement.

Lerner headed the Tax Exempt & Government Entities Division at the IRS, which grants tax-exempt status to nonprofit organizations. IRS leaders have acknowledged that the office inappropriately targeted for extra scrutiny groups that had political-sounding names, especially conservative groups.

The IRS confirmed Lerner's retirement but would not comment further, citing federal privacy rules.

Lawmakers said Lerner's resignation occurred as an Accountability Review Board formed by temporary IRS chief Daniel Werfel was set to remove Lerner for mismanagement.

The scandal surfaced when Lerner took a question at a legal conference in May, later revealed to be a planted question, in which she suggested some overzealous IRS employees had used inappropriate criteria to slow down requests for tax-exempt status from conservative groups. Hearings have shown that the Washington headquarters was deeply involved in the process.

Republicans allege that the scrutiny was designed to slow applications from groups who opposed Obama's re-election. California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who heads the House Committee on Oversight, said on Monday that he still wants testimony from Lerner.

Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination when appearing before Issa's committee, but not before offering a defense of her actions, leading Issa to conclude she'd waived her protections.

“Just because Lois Lerner is retiring from the IRS does not mean the investigation is over. Far from it,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

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