More Payne for the IRS

Prolonged agency abuses bring a Houston attorney $1.5 million

"There seems to be a decimal point in the wrong place," says Payne. "I'm not sure $1,000 will really deter the IRS from doing this sort of thing again."

Payne hopes, but doubts, that the United States Attorney's Office will see fit to file charges against agent Batista for violating federal law by releasing confidential information. The attorney also comes away from his 11-year ordeal with a belief that Congress should go further with its purported effort to reform the federal tax agency. And he has a new appreciation of what ordinary folks -- people without law degrees or knowledge of the ways and means of revenue agents -- face when they find themselves accused of tax violations and up against the deep pockets of the IRS.

"People who don't do this for a living and who are subjected to illegal acts by the federal government -- those people are pretty well doomed," Payne says.

E-mail Steve McVicker at steve_mcvicker@ houstonpress.com.

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