TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The IRS Scandal, Day 1552: The IRS's Email Retention Policies Still Do Not Ensure That Emails Are Retained And Produced When Requested

IRS Logo 2Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Electronic Record Retention Policies Do Not Consistently Ensure That Records Are Retained and Produced When Requested (2017-10-034):

IRS policies do not comply with certain Federal requirements that agencies must ensure that all records are retrievable and usable for as long as needed. For example, IRS e-mail retention policies are not adequate because e-mails are not automatically archived for all IRS employees. Instead, the IRS’s current policy instructs employees to take manual actions to archive e-mails by saving them permanently on computer hard drives or network shared drives.  

This policy has resulted in lost records when computer hard drives are destroyed or damaged. In addition, a recently instituted executive e-mail retention policy, which should have resulted in the archiving of e-mails from specific executives, was not implemented effectively because some executives did not turn on the automatic archiving feature.

For certain cases that TIGTA reviewed, IRS policies were not implemented consistently to ensure that all relevant documents were searched and produced when responding to external requests for records. TIGTA’s review of 30 completed Freedom of Information Act requests found that in more than half of the responses, the IRS did not follow its own policies that require it to document what records were searched. TIGTA also found that IRS policies for preserving records from separated employees were not adequate.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/08/the-irs-scandal-day-1552-the-irss-email-retention-policies-still-do-not-ensure-that-emails-are-retai.html

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Comments

How can they not have any one of the multitude of archiving and legal hold software solutions installed by now? Many of those products have been around for over fifteen years!

Posted by: Doug Wenzel | Aug 8, 2017 9:26:13 AM

Trump cant fire the IRS chief... or whatever that dudes name is.

Posted by: Paul dillon | Aug 8, 2017 9:27:47 AM

The issue really wasn't retention last time, since the backup tapes were available. The issue was, the IRS technology supervisor sent out an unambiguous directive to retain all backup tapes because they were under Congressional subpoena, and IRS employees destroyed said backup tapes.

No written policy will ever be enough to address the very convenient failure of IRS employees to read and comprehend basic grade school English, which is the only plausible excuse I can think of.

Posted by: MM | Aug 8, 2017 7:25:51 PM

Mr. MM: Oh my. I think you've finally got it. You are correct–“No written policy will ever be enough to address the very convenient failure of IRS employees to read and comprehend basic grade school English.” That is because the employees and contractors who handle the backup tapes and materials, and the storage and warehousing duties, transportation, and disposition thereof, lack basic English reading and writing skills. Why? You gets what you pays for.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Aug 9, 2017 6:20:32 AM

"You gets what you pays for."

No, Pubs, you get a lot less than what you pay for with the federal government.

Here's the 2013 email directive from IRS Chief Technology Officer Terence Milholland, verbatim:

https://congress.gov/congressional-report/114th-congress/house-report/635/1

"Given the current environment and ongoing investigations, do not destroy/wipe-reuse any of the existing backup tapes for email, or archiving of other information from IRS personal computers. Further, do not reuse or refresh or wipe information from any personal computer that is being reclaimed/returned/refreshed/updated from any employee or contractor of the IRS. Finally, effective immediately, the email retention policy for backups is to be indefinite rather than 6 months."

I'd posit that even grade schoolers with no government training whatsoever could understand and follow those instructions.

Do you have any trouble understanding it? Or do you require a certain $ per hour to understand basic English grammar? Come one, be honest...

Posted by: MM | Aug 10, 2017 10:46:42 PM