For the Press

Tax Analysts Releases Article Examining Whether House Ways and Means Committee Violated Taxpayer Confidentiality in Exempt Organizations Scandal

May 6, 2014

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – Tax Analysts, the nonprofit provider of federal, state, and international tax news and analysis, yesterday released an article questioning whether the Ways and Means Committee broke the law when it publicly disclosed confidential taxpayer information in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

The article, by David van den Berg, discusses whether the House Ways and Means Committee violated section 6103 of the tax code on April 9 when it voted to refer former IRS exempt organizations official Lois Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. The committee accused Lerner of depriving conservative groups of their constitutional rights, impeding official investigations, and putting confidential taxpayer information at risk.

 


Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp submitted the referral by letter to Holder, and the committee posted it online. The letter included 80 pages of exhibits and three tables listing organizations that had applied for tax exemption, the status of their applications, and any problems the IRS had identified in their submissions.

“Ways and Means staff maintain that the committee acted within its rights when it posted the organizations' names and details online,” writes van den Berg. “But several practitioners and scholars who spoke with Tax Analysts were skeptical of those assertions. Some said the committee may have broken the law.”

“The consequences of the committee's disclosure could be serious for the affected organizations and for the congressional process, according to some attorneys and academics,” the article says.

Congress enacted section 6103 taxpayer confidentiality protections in the Tax Reform Act of 1976 to address public concern over government agencies' use of taxpayer information. The statute requires that tax returns and return information remain confidential except in cases when the Internal Revenue Code expressly says otherwise.

As part of its public education mission, Tax Analysts seeks to establish transparency in the tax laws and more dialogue between tax authorities and taxpayers. Through these and other efforts, Tax Analysts works to ensure that the tax laws are applied fairly and equally to taxpayers across the country.

Read the article at TaxAnalysts.com.

For more information or to speak with van den Berg, please contact Shaima Cardillo at 703-531-4852 or shaima_cardillo@tax.org, or Shannon David at 703-531-4835 or Shannon_david@tax.org.