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IRS denies driving lawyer to commit suicide

August 6, 1997

DERRY, N.H. (AP) _ The Internal Revenue Service denies using harassment or any illegal tactics to try to collect more than $330,000 in back taxes and penalties from a lawyer who later committed suicide.

The IRS filed its response Tuesday to a $1 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bruce Barron’s widow under the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.

Shirley Barron claims IRS agent Donna Greeley and her supervisors used illegal collection tactics, interfered with her husband’s law practice and delayed negotiating a settlement, eventually driving him to suicide.

Mrs. Barron claims the IRS forced her husband’s law clients to pay the tax agency directly, humiliating her husband and harming his business.

She also says her husband tried to do the honorable thing by negotiating a settlement instead of clearing the debt by declaring bankruptcy. But Greeley failed to inform her husband that the settlement he was offering came very close to an amount the IRS had decided it would accept, Mrs. Barron’s lawsuit says.

In a separate response, also filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Greeley said the claim against her should be dismissed because she was just doing her job.

The couple’s financial problems started when a Salem recycling company in which Barron had invested failed. Their accountant said he could claim the $80,000 loss on his taxes. Two years later, the IRS said the deduction was illegal, Mrs. Barron’s lawyers said.

The Barrons’ debt mushroomed as interest and penalties were added. In 1994 and 1995, Greeley placed liens on the couple’s house and Cape Cod vacation home. A year ago Tuesday, when Barron learned that the bank was foreclosing on the house, he shut himself in the garage and turned on the car. His suicide note blamed the IRS.

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