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Obama says he's committed to fixing problems at tax agency

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement about the Internal Revenue Service in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 1
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement about the Internal Revenue Service in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 1

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday he was committed to fully fixing problems at the Internal Revenue Service, saying any employees involved in targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny would be held accountable for their actions.

In a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, Obama also said he did not know about a report by the IRS inspector general on the targeting before it was leaked to the press.

"Typically, the IG reports are not supposed to be widely distributed or shared. They tend to be, you know, a process that everybody's trying to protect the integrity of," Obama said at a press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The president is trying to limit political fallout from the scandal, which critics say is an example of government overreach. On Wednesday, the administration ousted the IRS's acting commissioner, Steven Miller.

Obama said further investigations would bring to light who was responsible and what had gone wrong. The IRS revealed last week that some of its officials had singled out Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status for special scrutiny.

"The actions that were described in that IG report are unacceptable," Obama said. "So in addition to making sure that we've got a new acting director there, we're also going to make sure that we gather up the facts and hold accountable and responsible anybody who was involved in this."

Obama also urged that laws "that create a bunch of ambiguity" for the IRS in applying tax rules be cleared up.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Roberta Rampton and Mark Felsenthal, writing by Laura MacInnis and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jim Loney)

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