May 27, 2016

LAWS ARE FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE: Instant Document Destruction At The IRS?

Has the Internal Revenue Service been systematically evading federal record-keeping laws? On Monday the Cause of Action Institute sued the IRS and commissioner John Koskinen for refusing to preserve electronic employee communications that concern official business.

Cause of Action says that in 2010 the IRS struck a little-noticed agreement with the National Treasury Employees Union not to record employees’ instant messages. The watchdog group also says that in response to its Freedom of Information Act requests for text messages sent by senior IRS officials, the agency replied that due to “routine system housekeeping” and “spacing constraints,” IRS text messages are retained for only 14 days before they are deleted.

Both actions appear to violate the Federal Records Act that requires agencies to preserve all relevant documents. The agency says it retains emails, at least those that don’t disappear in mysterious computer crashes. But if employees can send text messages and not save them, they can avoid records retention. “No agreement with a union or any other party can supersede Americans’ right to know how the IRS makes decisions,” says Cause of Action. “In addition, the IRS is violating the law by regularly deleting all employee text messages as a matter of convenience.”

The IRS says in a statement that, “Developing appropriate instant messaging policy is a challenge for all federal agencies,” adding that email should be used for official business. We wonder if taxpayers can use that explanation when failing to document income.

Only if they’re Clintons.

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