Paul L. Caron

Saturday, October 3, 2015

TIGTA: IRS Improperly Withheld Information From Taxpayer FOIA Requests 12% Of The Time

TIGTAThe Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has released Fiscal Year 2015 Statutory Review of Compliance With the Freedom of Information Act (2015-30-084):

TIGTA is required to conduct periodic audits to determine whether the IRS properly denied written requests for taxpayer information pursuant to FOIA § 552(b)(7) and I.R.C. § 6103. The overall objectives of this audit were to determine whether the IRS improperly withheld information requested by taxpayers in writing, based on FOIA exemption (b)(3), in conjunction with I.R.C. § 6103, and/or FOIA exemption (b)(7) or by replying that responsive records were not available. Specifically, this included determining whether the IRS had adequate and effective policies and procedures to ensure that all of these requests were processed timely and that information was not improperly withheld. In addition, TIGTA determined whether IRS disclosure officers erroneously disclosed sensitive taxpayer information when responding to written FOIA, Privacy Act, or I.R.C. § 6103 information requests.

TIGTA reviewed a statistically valid sample of 65 information requests from a population of 2,809 FOIA/Privacy Act information requests and found eight (12.3 percent) for which the IRS improperly withheld information from the requestors. The IRS also improperly withheld information for four (7.3 percent) of the 55 I.R.C. § 6103 information requests reviewed. Although the IRS properly released thousands of pages from these documents, taxpayer rights still may have been violated because some information was erroneously withheld. In addition, TIGTA found that the Disclosure Office does not have direct control over how other IRS functions process I.R.C. § 6103 information requests, nor does it regularly assess the quality of disclosure responses throughout the IRS.

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