A watchdog group filed a complaint against the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service Wednesday after the two agencies failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for documentation of how they protect Americans’ private tax information from abuse by government attorneys.
Cause of Action, a nonprofit government accountability group, filed the claim in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to force the agencies to disclose information regarding how Justice Department tax attorneys assigned to the White House are screened before gaining access to taxpayers’ confidential information.
“Given the IRS’ track record of failing to protect confidential tax information, this lack of agency oversight is a threat to our privacy and democracy,” said Cause of Action President Dan Epstein in a statement. “Ethical and legal protocols at these agencies should be held to the highest standards, especially when government attorneys are accessing confidential taxpayer return information while intermittently leaving to work in the White House.”
Cause of Action recently found that Justice Department tax attorneys, some of whom worked on the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative and Tea Party non-profit applicants during the 2010 and 2012 elections, now work in the White House giving legal advice.
The watchdog found no evidence of policies that prevent tax attorneys from sharing confidential tax information. The Justice Department and the IRS did not respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for the policies filed by Cause of Action in April.
The watchdog also wrote a letter encouraging Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate the matter. Epstein testified last week before a House Judiciary subcommittee regarding Cause of Action’s investigation.
In a related development, the IRS reported Tuesday that more than 100,000 taxpayers had their confidential information exposed after hackers gained access to the records held by the federal tax agency.
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