Oddly, the results of investigations conducted by the Treasury Department inspector general are considered the confidential tax information of the alleged perpetrator. So, as a Ways and Means Committee spokeswoman explains, the IG report is filed in the tax records of “the person who allegedly committed the violation” and its disclosure is considered tantamount to the release of the individual’s tax returns, a violation of section 6103.
The chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have, in Congress, the unique power to view confidential tax information, including the TIGTA report that concerns the Koch brothers. In this case, Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, whose colleagues prompted the investigation, has declined to request the report. “I share your concern that the law prohibits me from disclosing to you the information that you have requested,” George conceded.
Grassley’s concern is that the law as it stands — section 6103 in particular — is being used to skirt transparency. “Taxpayer confidentiality laws are important,” the senator tells National Review Online, “but the purpose of those laws is to prevent and deter inappropriate uses of taxpayer information, not to prevent public scrutiny if or when that confidentiality has been breached or keep the victim in the dark. A taxpayer should be able to know whether someone breached his or her confidentiality, whether any investigation resulted, and the outcome of that investigation. The taxpayer shouldn’t get the runaround from TIGTA.”
That’s exactly what the Kochs have gotten.
— Eliana Johnson is media editor of National Review Online.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece has been modified from its original version. It incorrectly quoted Austan Goolsbee’s remarks to reporters in 2010 and has been updated accordingly.