House Committee Chair Demands Answers on IRS Leak of Tax Records, Possible Political Motives

House Committee Chair Demands Answers on IRS Leak of Tax Records, Possible Political Motives
The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has raised allegations that the protected tax records of thousands of Americans were leaked to ProPublica for political purposes and he’s demanding to know what progress has been made by the Treasury Department investigations of the apparent leak.

In June 2021, ProPublica published an article detailing leaked tax records of several high-profile billionaires, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffett, and Michael Bloomberg. ProPublica said it had obtained “a vast cache of IRS information showing how billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth—sometimes, even nothing.”

In its June 8, 2021 article, ProPublica said it had a trove of tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people spanning more than 15 years. The news organization argued that the trove of documents “demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most.”

Following the initial ProPublica report, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she had tasked the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) with investigating how the tax records were leaked.

On Feb. 16, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) sent a letter (pdf) to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) J. Russell George, demanding to know where the investigation stands.

“Nineteen months after this outrageous leak, Congress and, more importantly, the American people, have no idea how this betrayal of taxpayer confidentiality happened or whether anyone has been held accountable,” Smith wrote. “A detailed status of this review is necessary to ensure TIGTA is conducting a comprehensive investigation that will be completed in a timely manner.”

Smith called on the TIGTA to produce a comprehensive and timely investigation of the leak, provide him with a fully unredacted copy of the report’s findings, and to make as much of that report available to the general public as legally allowed.

Possible Political Agenda

In its article on the leaked tax records, ProPublica said many billionaires “avail themselves of tax-avoidance strategies beyond the reach of ordinary people.” The publication acknowledged that wealthy individuals derive much of their wealth from the rising value of assets they own like stocks and property, which “are not defined by U.S. laws as taxable income” until they sell those assets. The value of capital assets can fluctuate and even be sold at a loss in value.

Despite acknowledging that assets that have appreciated in value are not taxable income until they are sold, ProPublica compared estimated rises in value of capital assets to the actual taxes that various billionaires paid, to determine what the publication deemed “their true tax rate.”

“Our analysis of tax data for the 25 richest Americans quantifies just how unfair the system has become,” ProPublica wrote.

Throughout his presidency, Joe Biden has similarly argued that wealthy corporations and individuals don’t pay their “fair share.”

In September 2021, the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) published an assessment that billionaires pay an 8 percent tax rate on average. As with ProPublica’s reporting, the CEA reached its 8 percent tax rate figure by including unrealized capital gains in their calculations of billionaires’ taxable incomes.

Last week, Biden claimed that the effective tax rate billionaires pay is 3 percent. In his State of the Union Address, Biden again argued that the tax system is “simply not fair,” and argued that he had made it more fair by passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a provision requiring “billion-dollar companies have to pay a minimum of 15 percent.”

In a Thursday statement, Smith raised the possibility of a political motive behind the 2021 IRS leak.

“The leak occurred at the same time that President Biden and congressional Democrats were soliciting public support for partisan legislation that would raise taxes on the same taxpayers whose information was publicly disclosed,” Smith wrote.

Smith said this leak of billionaires’ tax records follows “a long pattern of abusive behavior by the IRS under Democrat presidents” such as allegations that the IRS targeted conservative groups during President Barack Obama’s administration.

“After the Biden IRS leaked confidential taxpayer information to promote Washington Democrats’ political agenda, the Biden Administration thus far failed to produce any information about the cause of the leaks or hold anyone accountable,” Smith wrote.

NTD News reached out to TIGTA for comment, but they did not respond before this article was published.

From NTD News

By Ryan Morgan