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Thursday, October 4, 2012

IRS: Obama Has Not Requested Disclosure of Tax Returns 'Under § 6103(g) During Period in Question'

Washington Examiner:  Non-profit Wants to Know If Obama Asked IRS for Anybody's Tax Returns:

An independent non-profit group has asked a federal court to order the IRS to release documents concerning any requests the agency received from President Obama for the tax returns of any individual or business. ...

A spokesman for Cause of Action said the IRS could simply have claimed that it had no documents that would be responsive to the FOIA. But the IRS merely denied access to documents Cause of Action requested, which suggests there are such documents.

UPDATE: IRS say it got no Obama requests

A spokesman for the IRS tells The Washihngton Examiner that the agency received no requests from Obama for tax returns:

The IRS does not comment on pending litigation," said Michelle Eldridge. "However, the IRS can confirm that no requests were made, and no tax returns or return information have been disclosed under Internal Revenue Code 6103 (g) during the period in question."

Eldridge added that "federal law provides under Internal Revenue Code 6103 (g) a provision for the President of the United States to request and receive federal tax return information."

I.R.C. § 6103(g) Disclosure to President and certain other persons

(1) In general
Upon written request by the President, signed by him personally, the Secretary shall furnish to the President, or to such employee or employees of the White House Office as the President may designate by name in such request, a return or return information with respect to any taxpayer named in such request. Any such request shall state—
(A) the name and address of the taxpayer whose return or return information is to be disclosed,
(B) the kind of return or return information which is to be disclosed,
(C) the taxable period or periods covered by such return or return information, and
(D) the specific reason why the inspection or disclosure is requested.
(2) Disclosure of return information as to Presidential appointees and certain other Federal Government appointees
The Secretary may disclose to a duly authorized representative of the Executive Office of the President or to the head of any Federal agency, upon written request by the President or head of such agency, or to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on behalf of and upon written request by the President or such head, return information with respect to an individual who is designated as being under consideration for appointment to a position in the executive or judicial branch of the Federal Government. Such return information shall be limited to whether such individual—
(A) has filed returns with respect to the taxes imposed under chapter 1 for not more than the immediately preceding 3 years;
(B) has failed to pay any tax within 10 days after notice and demand, or has been assessed any penalty under this title for negligence, in the current year or immediately preceding 3 years;
(C) has been or is under investigation for possible criminal offenses under the internal revenue laws and the results of any such investigation; or
(D) has been assessed any civil penalty under this title for fraud.
Within 3 days of the receipt of any request for any return information with respect to any individual under this paragraph, the Secretary shall notify such individual in writing that such information has been requested under the provisions of this paragraph.
(3) Restriction on disclosure
The employees to whom returns and return information are disclosed under this subsection shall not disclose such returns and return information to any other person except the President or the head of such agency without the personal written direction of the President or the head of such agency.
(4) Restriction on disclosure to certain employees
Disclosure of returns and return information under this subsection shall not be made to any employee whose annual rate of basic pay is less than the annual rate of basic pay specified for positions subject to section 5316 of title 5, United States Code.
(5) Reporting requirements
Within 30 days after the close of each calendar quarter, the President and the head of any agency requesting returns and return information under this subsection shall each file a report with the Joint Committee on Taxation setting forth the taxpayers with respect to whom such requests were made during such quarter under this subsection, the returns or return information involved, and the reasons for such requests. The President shall not be required to report on any request for returns and return information pertaining to an individual who was an officer or employee of the executive branch of the Federal Government at the time such request was made. Reports filed pursuant to this paragraph shall not be disclosed unless the Joint Committee on Taxation determines that disclosure thereof (including identifying details) would be in the national interest. Such reports shall be maintained by the Joint Committee on Taxation for a period not exceeding 2 years unless, within such period, the Joint Committee on Taxation determines that a disclosure to the Congress is necessary.

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Comments

"...the IRS can confirm that...no tax returns or return information have been disclosed under Internal Revenue Code 6103 (g) during the period in question." [Unstated] "However, by ignoring the Code, we did sneak Obama the last ten years of Romney's tax returns along with those of his major donors and we harrassed conservative non-profits."

The enemies list, then and now

When Obama joked about siccing the IRS on his enemies back in 2009, Glenn Reynolds took to the pages of the Journal to make the elementary point that politically inspired tax audits are no laughing matter:

Paul Caron, a professor at the University of Cincinnati who writes the TaxProf blog, noted in response to Mr. Obama’s remarks that the law calls for the termination of IRS employees who make audit threats for illegitimate reasons. He suggested that Mr. Obama’s “joke” might be grounds for firing if he were an IRS employee. [Many a truth are said in jest.]

He’s not, of course, but as the president his words carry much more weight and he should be much more careful.

Now what? For those of use who lived through Watergate, it must be at least slightly surprising how little attention Strassel’s columns have drawn. Our friends at Hot Air have taken note, as have our friends at Right Coast, and Glenn Reynolds has followed the story via TaxProf Blog. In his RC post, Tom Smith reasonably proposes:

A Congressional committee should get an IRS official on the hot seat about this ASAP. The White House using the IRS to intimidate political opponents is a serious, serious abuse of power. It might be a coincidence. Or it might be a quiet word from the WH to a political friend in the IRS. And the labor department as well. Idaho’s congressional delegation needs to get on this right now.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 4, 2012 8:49:13 AM