Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Audit: IRS improperly withholding information requested by taxpayers

By M.D. Kittle

The federal agency that wants your money still has a problem with transparency.

A new audit shows the Internal Revenue Service improperly withheld information from requesters under the Freedom of Information Act 12.3 percent of the time.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, the IRS’ auditor, reviewed a statistically valid sample of 65 FOIA requests and found eight requests for which the tax collector improperly withheld information.

“The eight cases we identified included improperly withheld information of examination and collection activity and other tax return information that the taxpayer or authorized Power of Attorney should have received,” the audit states.

Extrapolated, some 346 FOIA/Privacy Act requests may have had information erroneously withheld between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, according to the audit.

TIGTA also found that the IRS did not release 7.3 percent of the Internal Revenue Code information requests reviewed — information that should have been open to the requester.

“Although the IRS properly released thousands of pages from these documents, taxpayer rights still may have been violated because some information was erroneously withheld,” the audit notes.

The IRS must ensure the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Internal Revenue Code are followed. Errors can violate taxpayer rights “and result in improper disclosures of taxpayer information,” according to the auditor.

TIGTA’s audit last year found the IRS improperly withheld FOIA-requested information from taxpayers in 11.3 percent of the reviewed cases.

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