Stolen IRS Files: Six Months, and Still No Answers

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Posted on Wednesday, December 8th, 2021, 8:00 AM PERMALINK

[Video compilation of Rettig/Yellen testimony on stolen taxpayer files]

Six months ago -- on June 8 -- the American people learned that "thousands" of households had their personal IRS files stolen and given to a progressive group. The stolen personal files cover a period of at least 15 tax years.

Under oath that same day, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig vowed to investigate and prosecute any guilty parties.

180 days later we still have no answers.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen continues to testify that she has no new information. Meanwhile the Biden administration and congressional Democrats push nonstop for more IRS power and more IRS auditors. The agency has proven itself unwilling or unable to safeguard taxpayer information.

Democrats still want to give the IRS automatic power to snoop: automatic access and storage of inflows and outflows from all bank accounts and Venmo, Paypal, and CashApp accounts.

Below is a timeline of testimony from IRS chief Rettig and Treasury Secretary Yellen.

Also included: letters from congressional Republicans to the IRS, the Attorney General, and the Treasury Inspector General, seeking answers and accountability:

June 8, 2021: When the existence of the theft was announced on June 8, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said under oath that an investigation was already underway:

I can confirm that there is an investigation with respect to the allegations that the source of the information in that article came from the Internal Revenue Service. Upon reviewing the article, the appropriate contacts were made as you would expect. And the investigators will investigate." (1:08:12)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) followed up and asked (1:09:42):

"When you said that you are investigating this ProPublica release of secret IRS files, I assume that if your investigation finds a violation of the law, you are going to see that people are prosecuted, is that right?"

Rettig replied:

"Absolutely."

June 9, 2021: Sen. Mike Crapo and Congressman Kevin Brady letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig

June 11, 2021: Congressman Mike Kelly letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig

June 11, 2021: 15 Republican Senators send letter to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George

June 11, 2021: Sens. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, and Mike Crapo letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland

June 16, 2021 Janet Yellen testimony (1:21:38) Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.): "Just last week the IRS had one of the most widespread breaches in the agency's history in order to advance a political agenda. This apparent leak -- a targeted leak, a targeted attack I should say -- on a select few Americans undermines the confidence in the agency and goes to the heart of public trust between taxpayers and the IRS's ability to safeguard private information. Can you tell me how the Treasury and the IRS hold individuals accountable who broke federal law by sharing confidential tax information, tax returns, and will you commit to updating me on what steps the administration has taken to ensure this doesn't happen again, and can you maybe tell us what steps you have taken so far?"

Janet Yellen: "Yes. This was a very serious situation that I and the Treasury Department take very seriously, the protection of government data. We've referred this matter to the Treasury Inspector General, and to the Department of Justice. The IRS commissioner is looking into the matter, as is the Treasury's Inspector General for Tax Administration. But we are only one week out on this. And I really want to emphasize, we do not know what happened. We don't have any facts at this point. I promise to keep you updated on what we find. But it is absolutely top priority to safeguard taxpayer data. When we see the results of the investigations that are done, if there are actions that we need to take to shore up the protection of this information, you have my absolute word that we will do so and we will keep you and congress informed on what we are doing, and what we are finding on this."

June 16, 2021: Seven Republican Senators send letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland

June 16, 2021: 19 Republicans in Congress send letter to Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney

June 23, 2021 Janet Yellen testimony (44:00): “Let me just say one final word about the IRS. Many of you have expressed concern about the recent ProPublica report. I am deeply troubled by it as well. And it’s important to stress that an unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information is a crime and that it has been referred to the FBI, federal prosecutors, and Treasury Department oversight authorities. We don’t yet know what occurred, but all is being done to get to the bottom of this criminal activity and we will be sure to update you as we learn more.” 

July 27, 2021: Congressmen Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan letter to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George

July 29, 2021: Congressman James Comer letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig

July 29, 2021 Paul Kiel (41:03): “There’s lots of things that could be done if congress wanted to do them, and I think basically the clear message the last ten years is Republicans don’t want to give money to the IRS because they don’t want the IRS to do a job that is unpopular with certain Republicans. They don’t want them to do audits at a certain level and that’s pretty clear at this point.” 

September 20, 2021: Congressmen James Comer letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig

September 28, 2021 Janet Yellen testimony (2:12:06): “The ProPublica information represented an illegal revelation of taxpayer information. It’s an illegal act. And it is being investigated thoroughly by independent entities, law enforcement, and the inspector generals of Treasury and the IRS. And there really can’t be tolerance for that.”

“Just to be clear: we do not know the ProPublica information came from the IRS. That hasn’t been established.”

September 30, 2021 Janet Yellen testimony Rep. David Kustoff (R -Tenn): “How did ProPublica publish and obtain the information from the IRS about taxpayer information?”

Janet Yellen: “Independent agencies and law enforcement are currently looking into that and attempting to figure out how that occurred. That is clearly a crime and an utterly unacceptable thing and it will be prosecuted when it’s understood.”

October 4, 2021: Sens. Mike Crapo and Chuck Grassley letter to Russell George

November 30, 2021 Janet Yellen testimony. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn): "Secretary Yellen, I’ll turn to another topic that we’ve discussed before back in September. We talked about the leak of confidential taxpayer information to ProPublica that was done in early 2021 for political purposes. You testified then that it’s an illegal act, that it’s being investigated thoroughly, and there can’t be any tolerance for that. You and I agreed on that. So given that testimony, I want to ask you; have the leakers been identified?"

Janet Yellen: “There are independent agencies, both within Treasury, the inspector General, also the FBI and DOJ, that are conducting investigations. We’re not privy, nothing has been reported out yet from those investigations that I’m aware of, but I believe those investigations are moving forward”

Sen. Hagerty: "Well, I take that as no update, but after the Lois Lerner scandal, after the scandal that occurred here in 2021 under this administration’s watch, I appreciate the fact that there’s an investigation underway, but I would say this. Until we have the results of that investigation, until we have true accountability, I cannot imagine how the Biden administration is encouraging what is in effect a ten times increase in the audit capacity of the IRS when there’s no accountability there. This is the D.C. swamp at its best."

Janet Yellen: “We don’t know what the source of the leak of that information was, and I would say it’s premature to indicate that it came from the IRS.”

December 1, 2021: Republican Members of Senate Finance Committee Letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig

See below: Video compilation of Rettig and Yellen testimony.

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