• Non-profit Watchdog Wants Probe of Biggest Tax-Return Leak Ever

    Officials with the departments of Treasury and Justice are being challenged today to investigate what a non-profit regulatory accountability group believes is “the largest and most significant breach and abuse of taxpayer confidentiality by the federal government in U.S. history.”

    More than 1.1 million pages of confidential tax return and return information were given by the IRS to Justice Department and FBI officials in October 2010, according to Erica Marshall of the Cause of Action Institute. Marshall’s group is a tax-exempt foundation that focuses on regulatory abuse in government.

    The 1.1 million pages of tax information is estimated to have included 113,000 confidential tax returns, making it “a breach and abuse far larger and more significant than the IRS breach and abuse by former President Richard Nixon that was grounds for an article of impeachment,” Marshall said in a letter made public Wednesday.

    Marshall’s letter was addressed to Department of Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George and Robin C. Ashton, counsel for the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

    George has been a key figure in the various official investigations of the illegal targeting and harassment by the IRS of conservative and Tea Party non-profit applicants during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns.

    Lois Lerner, former chief of the IRS division that reviews non-profit applicants, refused to answer questions before the House Ways and Means and Oversight and Government Reform committees, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

    Despite multiple congressional hearings since the IRS scandal broke in 2013, no attention has been focused on the transfer of so much confidential tax returns and information that 21 computer discs were required to contain it all.

    The confidential information was requested during a Sept. 29, 2010, meeting of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section and Lerner. Federal law strictly forbids release of confidential tax returns or related information except before a federal grand jury or a state or federal court proceeding.

    Marshall said the 2010 DOJ request to the IRS, however, “covered so many taxpayers and was so far removed from any narrowly tailored law enforcement effort that it clearly violated” the law. Such a violation raises the prospect  “that DOJ requested this massive database of confidential information to target political dissent,” she said.

    Russell and Ashton should immediately investigate “this matter and take all appropriate action, including referral to an appropriate United States Attorney for criminal prosecution.”

    Daniel Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the Obama administration “continues to use taxpayer privacy as a sword against its political enemies and as a shield to protect government wrongdoing.

    “The evidence, to date, reflects that confidential tax information was unlawfully accessed and shared between the IRS and FBI.  It is therefore incumbent on the Treasury IG for Tax Administration and the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ to investigate and hold those who broke the law accountable.”

    Release of the Cause of Action Institute letter comes the same day House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Oversight convenes a hearing to consider testimony by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and others on the tax agency’s “audit selection process and internal controls within the Tax Exempt and Government Entities division,” according to a subcommittee announcement Tuesday.

    Others testifying at the subcommittee hearing are scheduled to include Jay McTigue of the Government Accountability Office, Michelle Easton, president of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, Joseph R. Metzger, vice president of finance for the Leadership Institute, and Elizabeth J. Kingsley, a partner in the Harman, Curran, Spielberg and Eisenberg law firm.

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