Treasury Department Must Tell Whether Investigation Into White House Getting Unauthorized Tax Records Exists.

In 2009, President Obama joked about the President having the power to direct IRS audits of particular individuals or groups.  Later, in 2010, a White House Senior advisor told reporters at a press conference that Koch Industries, Inc. paid no taxes.  Based on these developments, various member of the Congress asserted that the advisor's statement was based on illegally obtained confidential tax return information that had been disclosed to the White House.  In response, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced that it was starting an investigation.  Ultimately, TIGTA never released a report and the plaintiff brought a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records relating to any authorized disclosure of tax return information.  However, TIGTA neither confirmed or denied whether they conducted an investigation, asserting certain exemptions from FOIA in a "Glomar" response.  TIGTA claimed that it couldn't acknowledge whether an investigation into the illegal release of taxpayer information to the White House occurred because such acknowledgement would constitute disclosure of tax return information.  The court disagreed, determining that the mere existence of an investigation records of investigations into unlawful disclosures of return information of unnamed parties was not, itself, return information compiled by the IRS in connection with its determination of a taxpayer's liability for a violation of the Internal Revenue Code.  The court also noted that TIGTA had waived reliance on other FOIA exemptions by publicly acknowledging that an investigation existed.  The court remanded the case to TIGTA for a determination of whether the contents of the officially acknowledged records may be protected from disclosure by virtue of a FOIA exemption.  Cause of Action v. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, No. 13-1225 (ABJ), 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 188825 (D. D.C. Sept. 29, 2014).   

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