TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION

Office of Audit

Highlights

FISCAL YEAR 2019 STATUTORY REVIEW OF DENIALS OF FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
AND INTERNAL REVENUE CODE SECTION 6103 REQUESTS

Final Report issued on September 5, 2019

Highlights of Reference Number:  2019-10-057 to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS

Taxpayers may request information from the IRS through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  However, a section of the FOIA, 5 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section (§) 552(b)(7), allows certain records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes to be withheld.  Taxpayers may also request information from the IRS through Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) § 6103 (c) and (e).  While I.R.C. § 6103 protects the confidentiality of taxpayer returns and return information, it does allow the taxpayer, or a person designated by the taxpayer, to request and receive tax information.  If the IRS does not process requests under these statutes correctly, taxpayers do not receive the information to which they are entitled.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT

The overall objective of this audit was to determine whether the IRS improperly withheld information requested by taxpayers in writing based on 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7) or I.R.C. § 6103.  TIGTA is required to conduct periodic audits in this area and report the results to Congress.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND

TIGTA reviewed a statistical sample of 80 of the 3,547 FOIA requests for Fiscal Year 2018 for which the IRS denied the requested information either partially or fully based on the (b)(7) exemption, replied that no responsive records were available, or closed the request as imperfect.  In addition, TIGTA reviewed all 74 Fiscal Year 2018 I.R.C. § 6103 (c) and (e) requests documented in the Automated FOIA system for which the IRS withheld information from the requestor.  While TIGTA determined that information was properly withheld in most cases, TIGTA identified seven instances in which information was improperly withheld.

TIGTA identified six (8 percent) of 80 sampled FOIA information requests and one (1 percent) of 74 I.R.C. § 6103 (c) and (e) information requests for which taxpayers did not receive the information to which they were entitled because the IRS improperly withheld information from the requestors.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED

TIGTA did not make any recommendations because the IRS has already provided training and updated procedures to address the issues identified.  Key IRS officials reviewed this report prior to its issuance and agreed with the facts and conclusions presented.

READ THE FULL REPORT

To view the report, including the scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to:

https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2019reports/201910057fr.pdf.

 

Phone Number   /  202-622-6500

E-mail Address  /  TIGTACommunications@tigta.treas.gov

Website             /  https://www.treasury.gov/tigta