In a Friday afternoon news dump on Sept. 29, the Department of Justice finally ended more than two years of radio silence regarding the theft of thousands of Americans’ private tax files.
The big news: An IRS system was the source of the stolen, private taxpayer files.
But the thief is getting off easy: He is only being charged with a single count instead of thousands. The message to future thieves tempted to steal your files: take everything because you’ll only be charged with stealing one thing.
DOJ documents indicate the thief, an IRS contractor, was rooting around in the most sensitive IRS systems for three years. He then gave those stolen files to a major newspaper and a progressive group.
Let’s review what happened: On June 8, 2021 it was revealed that a “vast trove” (their words) of private taxpayer IRS files had been stolen and presented on a platter to the progressive group, Pro Publica. The group claimed not to know the source but did say the last time they received and published private taxpayer files, it arrived in an IRS envelope. The leak targeted a conservative group.
Upon publishing the “vast trove” in 2021, Pro Publica noted that the last time they published stolen info, they had received a warning from the government not to do so. They ignored the warning and published the information. They never heard from the government again.
So they knew enforcement of taxpayer privacy laws was not a top priority for the federal government.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the date Pro Publica revealed the “vast trove” was the same date congressional Democrats launched a major tax increase initiative to tax unrealized gains: the exact same framing Pro Publica centered to the public.
IRS culture — regardless of funding level or party control going back decades — has consistently shown a flagrant disregard for taxpayer privacy: sensitive taxpayer files stored on open shelving with no access controls; a failed Inspector General audit showing the IRS currently failing three out of five major cybersecurity functions; frequent loss of sensitive taxpayer documents between processing facilities and then failing to notify taxpayers that their most sensitive information has been compromised.
It is no wonder DOJ chose a Friday afternoon (as a shutdown loomed) to release the information. They hope you won’t notice.