The Fiscal Times
USA: The Internal Revenue Service appears to have violated a court order once again requiring the preservation of evidence needed by investigators looking into questionable practices at the agency. In a case sure to stir up memories of the Lois Lerner investigation, which saw IRS Commissioner John Koskinen dragged before Congress for multiple hearings, the agency destroyed a computer hard drive belonging to an IRS official connected to the subject of a Congressional query.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, wrote to Koskinen in May, noting, “The IRS has over 40,000 employees dedicated to enforcement efforts, including more than 36,000 tasked specifically with exams and collections. If none of these employees, nor IRS Office of Chief Counsel or Department of Justice tax attorneys, have sufficient expertise to undertake the examination at hand, we should have a broader conversation about your agency’s hiring practices and recruitment needs.”
Hatch also challenged the idea that it was acceptable to allow non-government attorneys to participate in the audit of a private firm.
“Unlike private contractors, Treasury Department officials are required to swear an oath to the Constitution and are subject to rules of conduct and federal law regulating their interactions with taxpayers…. Turning over inherently government functions such as the conduct of an examination to private contractors not only jeopardizes the rights of taxpayers, but also confuses the examination process and changes the well-regulated relationship between revenue examiners and private taxpayers.”
The revelation that the agency had destroyed a hard drive that Congressional investigators viewed as central to an ongoing inquiry infuriated House Oversight and Investigations Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
In a letter to Koskinen last week, co-signed by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, he wrote, “It is stunning to see that the IRS still does not take reasonable care to preserve documents that it is legally required to protect,” and demanded information related to the agency’s document retention policies.
In a line that seems to presage further uncomfortable Congressional hearings for Koskinen, they also wrote, “The destruction of evidence subject to preservation orders and subpoenas has been an ongoing problem under your leadership at the IRS.”