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Sens. Cruz, Braun, Colleagues Call for Investigation into Political Weaponization of IRS Data After ‘Vast Trove’ of Tax Info Published by ProPublica

June 10, 2021

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202-228-7561

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) this week sent letters to the Acting Treasury Inspector General and the Inspector General for Tax Administration to request a prompt investigation into how ProPublica was able to publish a "vast trove" of taxpayer information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The information appears to be confidential and protected under federal law from disclosure. The senators requested an investigation into how this IRS information was leaked and urged the Inspector Generals to hold accountable any individuals who broke federal law by inappropriately sharing confidential tax information.

In the letter, the senators wrote:

"Taxpayers must have the utmost confidence in federal institutions that house their personal and confidential information," the senators write in the letter. "Regrettably, American citizens have reason to be distrusting, having witnessed IRS personnel weaponize information in recent years for the purpose of targeting certain tax-exempt organizations for political reasons during the Obama Administration.

"Regrettably, it appears personnel with access to American's personal and confidential information are again misusing protected information for political reasons. Treasury and the IRS must hold accountable any and all individuals who broke federal law by inappropriately sharing the confidential tax information and tax returns of multiple Americans."

Read the full letter to Inspector General George here. Read the full letter to Inspector General Delmar here and below.

June 9, 2021

Mr. Richard K. Delmar
Acting Inspector General
U.S. Department of the Treasury
City Center Building
1401 H Street, NW, Suite 469
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Acting Inspector General Delmar,

We write to request your prompt investigation into the loss of a "vast trove" of taxpayer information provided to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that appears to be confidential information that is protected under federal law from disclosure, and for which the inappropriate disclosure of such information is subject to criminal investigation and prosecution. I appreciate your attention to this important matter.

Pro Publica is reporting it "obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation's wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years." Pro Publica proceeds to state that information it obtained "shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investment, stock trades, gambling winnings, and even the results of audits." Pro Publica admits on its own accord that such records are confidential in nature. Pro Publica also openly notes that its use of such information has a political value to current debates in Congress concerning tax reform, but does claim that such confidential information was lawfully obtained.

Federal law protects tax returns and return information as confidential, and also prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of such information. Under law, "disclosure" means the "making known to any person in any manner whatever a return or return information." Exemptions to this framework are few, narrow, and clearly specified. Further, federal law specifies that willful unauthorized disclosure of returns or return information by employees granted access to such protected information (be it federal or state employees, a former employee, or contractor employee) is a felony punishable upon conviction by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution, and if such offense is committed by any officer or employee of the United States, he shall, in addition to any other punishment, be dismissed from office or discharged from employment upon conviction for such offense.

Taxpayers must have the utmost confidence in federal institutions that house their personal and confidential information. Regrettably, American citizens have reason to be distrusting, having witnessed IRS personnel weaponize information in recent years for the purpose of targeting certain tax-exempt organizations for political reasons during the Obama Administration. Regrettably, it appears personnel with access to American's personal and confidential information are again misusing protected information for political reasons. Treasury and the IRS must hold accountable any and all individuals who broke federal law by inappropriately sharing the confidential tax information and tax returns of multiple Americans.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter, and stand ready to provide additional information should you or your team request such feedback or information.

Sincerely,

/s/

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