Grassley Pursues Unauthorized Access To Donor Tax Records; DOJ Declines Pursuit

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Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said July 16 that he is looking into Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) findings that the confidential tax records of political donors or candidates have been inappropriately accessed or disclosed since 2006.

The inspector general found one case of “willful” access and sought Justice Department prosecution, but the Justice Department declined to pursue criminal prosecution, Grassley said in a statement.

Republicans Called for Investigation

Grassley was one of several Senate Finance Committee Republicans who May 16 called on TIGTA to conduct a full investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's possible role in the disclosure of nine conservative groups' confidential applications for tax-exempt status, six of which appeared on the website of the journalist group ProPublica (12 PVLR 875, 5/20/13).

TIGTA's May 14 report, which exposed IRS as targeting conservative groups, prompted the senators to request an independent investigation.

Grassley June 3 sent a separate letter to TIGTA requesting information about the alleged inappropriate access to confidential tax records. TIGTA responded July 3.

Eight Instances of Unauthorized Access, Disclosure

“In response to my request, TIGTA reported knowledge of eight instances involving potential unauthorized access or disclosure of tax records belonging to political donors or candidates. Although this may not be indicative of wide spread targeting, any instance is cause for concern,” Grassley said in a July 12 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

In the case of willful unauthorized access, Grassley said a decision not to prosecute should be subject to the scrutiny of the American public.

Grassley is asking the Justice Department why it would not prosecute the one case that was found to be willful.

Grassley said the inappropriate access most likely occurred at the IRS, but because the inspector general did not name the agency or any other entity, an agency such as a state tax office with access to federal tax records could be involved.

TIGTA said in four of the eight cases, the allegations were not substantiated. In one case no access had occurred; in three others, access had occurred, but there was a legitimate business reason for the access.

In the other four cases, unauthorized access or disclosure occurred. In three, the access was determined to have been inadvertent with no indication of willfulness.

In the fourth case, TIGTA presented evidence of a willful unauthorized access, but the Justice Department declined to prosecute.

Grassley's June 3 letter to TIGTA is available at

TIGTA's July 3 letter to Grassley is available at

Grassley's July 12 letter to Holder is available at

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