As President Joe Biden plans to hire 87,000 new tax collectors at the Internal Revenue Service, years of confidential tax filings from thousands of the nation’s wealthiest individuals leaked from the agency, liberal news site ProPublica reported.
The scope of the unlawfully revealed tax filings indicates that a government employee, most likely an IRS agent, leaked them. It is a felony for federal employees to disclose private tax returns.
Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland in which they asked about the Justice Department’s investigation into the leak and demanded that the leakers “be pursued to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Whether it is George Soros or Rupert Murdoch, every American should have confidence that their personal tax information is secure and safe from privacy violations,” Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., Jim Jordan, R-Oh., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill., wrote in the letter.
The congressmen are the Ranking Members on the House Committees on Oversight, the Judiciary, and Administration, respectively.
Garland called the leak “an extremely serious matter,” and he said that investigating it will be “at the top” of his priorities, MSN reported.
Federal law mandates that “returns and return information shall be confidential,” according to a press release.
Violating the law could result in up to five years imprisonment, up to a $5,000 fine, and dismissal from federal employment.
ProPublica did not reveal its sources for the “tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years.”
The IRS has not explained how the leak occurred or how it intends to prevent future leaks.
Douglas O’Donnell, IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, said the agency referred the investigation to the FBI and the Office of the Inspector General, Bloomberg reported.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau has not made arrests or issued warrants.
O’Donnell said the IRS will “fully support” the investigation.
The data dump targets America’s wealthiest individuals, indicating that the leaker supports the Biden administration’s agenda to strengthen the IRS with $80 billion a year in additional funding.
Biden hopes the effort will increase tax compliance and boost revenue by $700 billion over a decade.
“Especially as the Biden Administration’s proposed budget would vastly increase the size and staffing of the IRS, we are concerned about the potential for future leaks of sensitive tax information, particularly if such leaks are politically motivated or targeted against those who may take unpopular positions,” the Republican representatives wrote.
The federal government’s tax-collection agency has abused the public’s trust before.
During the Obama administration, the IRS denied tax-exempt status to conservative nonprofits solely because of their political and religious beliefs.
National Review columnist Charles Cooke outlined in an article, “We Can’t Trust the IRS,” the three ways in which the confidential tax information could have escaped from the agency.
“It could have been leaked by someone who works for — or with — the IRS,” he wrote. “It could have been hacked by an outside group. Or it could have been surreptitiously released by a member of Congress or a Biden administration staffer. Whichever one of these happened, the conclusion must be the same: We cannot trust the IRS.”
The leak’s timing suggests a coordinated effort to stir public sentiment for further empowering and enriching the IRS and, consequently, The National Treasury Employees Union, which donates almost exclusively to the Democratic Party’s causes and candidates.
Five Republican Senators said in a letter to Acting Treasury Inspector General Richard Delmar that a political purpose motivated the illegal leak.
“Regrettably, it appears personnel with access to Americans’ personal and confidential information are again misusing protected information for political reasons,” wrote Sens. Mike Braun (Ind.), Mike Lee (Ut.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), and Ted Cruz (Tex.).
The most prominent leaked tax filings include those of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Bloomberg, and George Soros.
ProPublica’s report has stirred progressive demands for changes to the tax code but it did not find “evidence of illegality,” the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board reported on Tuesday.
Using questionable assumptions, such as confusing “gains in wealth with failures to pay more in income taxes,” ProPublica suggested that Warren Buffet, the world’s seventh-wealthiest person, paid 0.10 percent in income taxes.
ProPublica noted the irony that Buffet is an “advocate of higher taxes for the rich.”
The report also claimed that Bezos, Bloomberg, Musk, and others paid income taxes at rates in the single digits.
This confirms the well-known fact that “the labyrinth of exemptions, credits, deductions, and the like in our extensive tax code are used to limit tax liability,” according to the Foundation for Economic Education.
FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said the most recent leak fits into the left’s typical strategy: illegally leak information and then “let the media and radical activists do [its] dirty work for them.”
“As if we needed another example of gross incompetence — or intentional malice — to prove that the IRS should not be trusted to protect Americans’ privacy, these leaks show how at all levels, big government is out to target conservatives,” he said.