IRS Honcho at Heart of Tea Party Scandal Retires Lois Lerner had been on paid leave By Newser Editors and Wire Services Posted Sep 23, 2013 2:26 PM CDT 32 comments Comments In this May 22, 2013, photo, Lois Lerner listens on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Newser) – An official at the center of the IRS' tea party scandal is retiring, the agency announced today. Lois Lerner headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status when she was placed on paid leave in May. While she was in charge, the agency acknowledged that agents improperly targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2012. Lerner first disclosed the targeting at a law conference in May, when she was asked a planted question about IRS treatment of political groups. Less than two weeks later, she refused to answer questions at a congressional hearing, citing her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. Republicans in Congress have repeatedly called for her to be fired.