(CNSNews.com) - Every year around this time, the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on the tax filing season. But this is the first time a committee member has asked the IRS commissioner about a president’s tax returns.
“If IRS agents found ties to Russia in the president's tax returns, would they now be able to share that information with national security agencies?” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen at Thursday’s hearing.
“I can't talk about anyone's individual tax--” Koskinen started to say.
“No, this is just a question, would they be able to?” Wyden cut in.
“As a general matter, tax information and tax audits are highly protected,” Koskinen replied. “We think every taxpayer needs to be confident when they deal with us that they're going to be dealing with us, and we're not sharing that information with anyone else.
“As a general matter, you know, if we find evidence of criminal activity in an audit, our criminal investigators work with the Department of Justice on that matter. But for the vast, overwhelming majority of taxpayers, that information about their return, the information about the audit, is highly secretive.”
Koskinen added that “no IRS employee,” not even the IRS commissioner, “can look at anyone's tax return unless they have a good reason to, and we monitor that.”
“All I can tell you is, we treat taxpayer data confidentially. We protect it to the maximum extent we can. And every taxpayer gets treated the same.”
In his opening statement to the committee, Wyden noted that presidents of the United States normally release their tax returns to the public around this time of year: “It's been a tradition for decades, but apparently that's not going to happen in 2017,” he said.
“It looks like this president will choose to keep hiding his returns and ignoring this very low ethical bar, even though it's clear his blind trust isn't blind at all. And the separation he promised he'd make from his businesses seems to be nonexistent.”
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