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Finance Committee Republicans Continue to Press IRS on ProPublica Leak

Washington, D.C.--Nearly six months after ProPublica began disclosing confidential, private and legally-protected taxpayer information, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Biden Administration continue to show little regard about the haphazard handling of private taxpayer data.  ProPublica unabatedly continues to publish articles naming individual taxpayers while the IRS, the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice have all failed to identify the source or sources of the leaked information.  U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, led Republican colleagues on the Committee in sending a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, continuing to conduct oversight and pressing the agency on its weak responses to the massive apparent leaks. 

From the letter:

“[…]ProPublica continues to publish what appears to be confidential taxpayer information that is protected by law, and as Commissioner, you have been a proponent of the IRS being allowed access to even more information from taxpayers and a significant and mandatory enforcement budget.  The fact that the source of the information ProPublica continues to publish remains unknown means that the ability of the IRS to safeguard information already entrusted to it also remains unknown.  It is possible that ProPublica obtained whatever information it has at one time from a specific source.  However, if the ProPublica information was leaked or hacked from the IRS, and the IRS is unable to even determine if a leak or hack took place, this could indicate an ongoing and persistent problem with IRS information technology (IT) systems and the ability of the IRS to safeguard taxpayer information.”

The letter notes known deficiencies in IRS systems and highlights data and privacy security vulnerabilities involved in contractor relationships.  The Members also request further, detailed information about the IRS’s efforts to determine a source of the leaks, and what the IRS has done to resolve open recommendations for curing deficiencies.

“As we enter month six with no information about how ProPublica obtained protected taxpayer information, the risks we highlighted in this letter are of growing concern,” the letter continues.  “It is our constitutional obligation to ensure that IRS enforcement remains effective, and that requires the IRS to properly secure taxpayer information.”

Background:  The leak or hack of private taxpayer information and unauthorized disclosure by advocates at ProPublica cannot be ignored or swept under the rug.  The public needs to know that personal information provided to the IRS remains confidential, and not available for targeting or political agendas, especially in light of current efforts to expand private information collection on American taxpayers.  

Download the full letter here.