TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 322

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/03/the-irs-scandal-25.html

IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink

Comments

Issa’s committee has demanded production of ALL emails to and from six IRS officials since 2009, without limitation on subject matter. Lerner is one of these officials. Koskinen has now agreed to produce all such emails. We can expect several results from this stupidity–meaning BOTH the substantial overreach of the Committee’s document request AND Koskinen’s agreement to comply with it. First, it will require the efforts of large numbers of IRS IT employees simply to retrieve these emails. Second, after the emails have been identified and produced by IT, it will require hundreds of thousands of work-hours by hundreds of IRS lawyers, paralegals, and technicians to read all of the emails and redact from them the names and identifiers of U.S. taxpayers who are the subjects of the emails. This redaction is required by federal law, viz., 26 U.S.C. § 6103, and is enforced by civil sanctions and criminal penalties. Third, the IRS employees who review the emails inevitably will make a small number of errors in over- and under-redacting the emails. This will occur because: 1) humans make mistakes; 2) the larger the project or mission, the greater the likelihood of mistakes; 3) redaction of documents on this scale is mind-numbingly tedious; and 4) redaction frequently involves judgment calls about what details may or may not reveal the identity of certain taxpayers. Fourth, mistakes in over-redaction will result in further accusations of “coverup” by the Committee and its supporters. Under-redaction will result in further accusations that the IRS has improperly disclosed tax return information of 501(c)(4) applicants, as well as taxpayers unrelated to the 501(c)(4) controversy. Fifth, a massive number of redacted and unredacted emails, the vast majority of which will have no connection whatsoever to the 501(c)(4) controversy, will be delivered to Issa’s committee. This will result in accusations by the Committee that the IRS is trying to hide the relevant emails by making a “document dump.”

This controversy will not end as long as Issa is allowed to run unbridled “investigations.” The price tag on this investigation has already exceeded $15mm. I suspect it will eventually exceed Lawrence Walsh’s Iran-Contra investigation in cost.

Posted by: Publlius Novus | Mar 27, 2014 6:47:07 AM

Issa’s committee has demanded production of ALL emails to and from six IRS officials since 2009, without limitation on subject matter. Lerner is one of these officials. Koskinen has now agreed to produce all such emails. We can expect several results from this stupidity–meaning BOTH the substantial overreach of the Committee’s document request AND Koskinen’s agreement to comply with it. First, it will require the efforts of large numbers of IRS IT employees simply to retrieve these emails. Second, after the emails have been identified and produced by IT, it will require hundreds of thousands of work-hours by hundreds of IRS lawyers, paralegals, and technicians to read all of the emails and redact from them the names and identifiers of U.S. taxpayers who are the subjects of the emails. This redaction is required by federal law, viz., 26 U.S.C. § 6103, and is enforced by civil sanctions and criminal penalties. Third, the IRS employees who review the emails inevitably will make a small number of errors in over- and under-redacting the emails. This will occur because: 1) humans make mistakes; 2) the larger the project or mission, the greater the likelihood of mistakes; 3) redaction of documents on this scale is mind-numbingly tedious; and 4) redaction frequently involves judgment calls about what details may or may not reveal the identity of certain taxpayers. Fourth, mistakes in over-redaction will result in further accusations of “coverup” by the Committee and its supporters. Under-redaction will result in further accusations that the IRS has improperly disclosed tax return information of 501(c)(4) applicants, as well as taxpayers unrelated to the 501(c)(4) controversy. Fifth, a massive number of redacted and unredacted emails, the vast majority of which will have no connection whatsoever to the 501(c)(4) controversy, will be delivered to Issa’s committee. This will result in accusations by the Committee that the IRS is trying to hide the relevant emails by making a “document dump.”

This controversy will not end as long as Issa is allowed to run unbridled “investigations.” The price tag on this investigation has already exceeded $15mm. I suspect it will eventually exceed Lawrence Walsh’s Iran-Contra investigation in cost.

Posted by: Publlius Novus | Mar 27, 2014 6:49:25 AM

Publius Novus is apparently not aware of current e-discovery devices. It will not take "hundreds of thousands of work hours by hundreds of thousands of IRS lawyers . . . ." I suspect, if Chief Counsel is doing his job, they already have them. The IRS does not use vast resources when it responds to my FOIA requests, most of which ask for much more volume of materials than emails on a specific subject. If it's just a "rogue agent in Cincinnati" it shouldn't be too hard anyway.

Posted by: TexEcon | Mar 27, 2014 2:08:15 PM

@TexEcon, did you not read the part where the IRS is to turn over ALL emails from certain officials. Not all emails pertaining to a limited category, but every single email they ever sent and received. So yes it will take significant time and resources to pull and redact all those emails. I believe Publlius Novus was being a bit hyperbolic, but you are just plain wrong.

Posted by: Reading Comprehension | Mar 28, 2014 7:47:47 AM

@ReadingComprehension - no, I'm not. All the IRS has to do is sort the emails by sender. It's easy. Try it in your email program. The IRS has fairly good IT resources. It will take a matter of minutes. Large organizations do this every day. This is old technology.

Posted by: TexEcon | Mar 30, 2014 6:30:10 PM