IG: IRS 'Improperly Withheld' FOIA Information

By Melanie Arter | September 30, 2013 | 2:27pm EDT

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CNSNews.com) – A Sept. 30 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that the IRS may have violated taxpayer rights by improperly withholding or not adequately searching for and providing information responsive to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

TIGTA also found that “sensitive taxpayer information was inadvertently disclosed in response to nine (16.4 percent) of the FOIA/Privacy Act and four (7.4 percent) of the I.R.C. § 6103 information requests reviewed.”

“TIGTA reviewed a statistically valid sample of 55 FOIA/Privacy Act information requests from a population of 3,415 FOIA/Privacy Act requests and found nine (16.4 percent) in which taxpayer rights may have been violated because the IRS improperly withheld or failed to adequately search for and provide information to requestors,” the report, titled Fiscal Year 2013 Statutory Review of Compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, said.

The IRS hired 21 new disclosure specialists in Fiscal Year 2012 and 24 new specialists in 2011, TIGTA said.

“The influx of new employees may be a contributing factor to the increased instances of taxpayer information being either erroneously withheld or not provided in error,” TIGTA said.

TIGTA found six instances where “Personally Identifiable Information that was outside the scope of what the requestor’s Power of Attorney or designated representative was authorized to receive” was improperly released.

It also found “five occurrences which released Personally Identifiable Information of third-party taxpayers.”

There were four instances where the taxpayer’s “Discriminant Function Score” was released.” Discriminant Function Score is “a numerical score given to tax returns based upon a computerized classification process that by IRS policy is for ‘official use only’ and not to be disclosed.”

TIGTA found three instances where “taxpayer-related information (such as revenue agent reports, bank records, etc.)” was treated inconsistently “by redacting information on some pages, and then releasing it on others.”

And there was one occurrence where the IRS released transcripts for an incorrect Social Security Number, TIGTA noted.

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