Victory For Taxpayer Confidentiality

A court ruling on Friday was a victory for those seeking information requests to the White House. A group called “Cause of Action” sued the IRS in 2013 trying to ascertain if the White House ever requested private taxpayer information, especially in light of the IRS scandal.

The requests, however, were declined by the IRS, who cited section 6103 of the tax code, which is the section governing taxpayer confidentiality laws. They argued that “the existence of those requests would be protected by confidentiality laws and couldn’t be released, so there was no reason to make the search.”

The judge however, Amy Berman Jackson, disagreed with their response, noting that “the agency couldn’t use the privacy protection ‘to shield the very misconduct it was enacted to prohibit.’” The IRS was subsequently ordered to turn over any and all recorded requests from the White House seeking taxpayer information. In December 2014, TIGTA acknowledged the existence of about 2500 documents that fit the FOIA request, from “Cause of Action”, asking for communication between the IRS and the White House. It will be interesting to see what these documents reveal.

There’s already been some hints at confidentiality impropriety. Remember that in August 2010, Austan Goolsbee spoke about the Koch Brothers’ tax structure in an anecdote to attack businesses and openly discussed tax information about their business structure that was not publicly available. Additionally, in October 2010, the agency sent a database on 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups containing confidential taxpayer information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to documents obtained by a House panel.

It wouldn’t be a stretch, therefore, to imagine that the White House, the “most transparent administration ever”, also requested or received confidential taxpayer information in collusion with the IRS.

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