IRS Violates Longstanding Court Order
Agency Has Withheld Tax Enforcement
Withholding Violates 1976 Consent Decree
SEATTLE, WA - In violation of a longstanding court order, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has knowingly stopped providing a widely recognized data expert with detailed statistics about how the agency enforces the nation's tax laws, according to a motion filed in the United States district court for the Western District of Washington.A copy of this motion is available at http://trac.syr.edu/foia/.
The legal challenge was brought by Susan B. Long, a professor of Management Information and Decision Sciences at Syracuse University's Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Long has used the IRS's own data to document its performance for more than 30 years. Since 1989 she also has been co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data-research organization that provides the public with detailed information about the operation of hundreds of federal agencies, including the IRS.
Long obtained a court order on July 23, 1976 from Judge Walter McGovern in connection with her studies of the agency while she was pursuing her Ph.D at the University of Washington. The order requires the IRS to provide her statistical data on an ongoing basis about its audit, collection and other enforcement activities.
For many years the IRS largely abided by McGovern's order. Since mid-2004, however, the agency has refused to comply, even while acknowledging the existence of the court order and its current collection of statistical material that is covered by the order. The agency has not offered an explanation for its refusal to provide the information. The motion filed today asks the court to compel compliance with that order. (http://trac.syr.edu/foia)
For more than 10 years TRAC has used the IRS's own data to produce a regular series of authoritative reports about the actual performance of what is today one of the nation's largest and most powerful agencies. The reports are posted on TRAC's web site, http://trac.syr.edu. For example:
"It should come as no surprise that none of these findings were announced by either the IRS or the administrations in power at the time of their publication," Long said. "Furthermore, all of these and many other similar findings were based on the kinds of data that the IRS has been unlawfully withholding from TRAC and the American people since 2004."
TRAC's motion in the Western District of Washington is separate from its still-pending April 14 lawsuit in the District of Columbia brought under the Freedom of Information Act. In that action, TRAC charged the IRS was illegally withholding selected information about its operations, claiming without substantiation that some of the requested material would compromise homeland security.
TRAC also has FOIA suits pending in court against the Justice Department's Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and the Office of Personnel Management. In addition, TRAC currently has administrative FOIA requests seeking data and other information from the Justice Department's Civil Division and its Environmental and Natural Resources Division, the immigration courts and several agencies within the Department of Homeland Security.
Scott Nelson, with Public Citizen in Washington, D.C., and Eric M. Stahl and Michele Earl-Hubbard with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Seattle, are representing TRAC on a pro bono basis in the most recent filing.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.