Lankford Demands Update from Yellen on What’s Being Done to Protect Taxpayer Privacy
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WASHINGTON, DC – One year after the massive data leak of Americans’ sensitive taxpayer information to ProPublica, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) questioned Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a Senate Finance Committee hearing about the leak and what has been done in the last year by the Department and the IRS to keep taxpayer information safe. Lankford also asked Yellen about the Biden Administration’s international tax “deal” and other tax regulations, which will put American companies at a disadvantage internationally and result in a loss of US jobs.
Lankford continues to demand answers from Treasury on their mishandling of sensitive taxpayer data, their tremendous backlogs in processing tax returns, and their potential targeting of certain groups seeking tax-exempt status. Lankford sent a letter to Secretary Yellen about Treasury’s lack of response to the ProPublica leak, which reportedly exposed a “vast trove” of IRS data on the returns of thousands of Americans, covering more than 15 years. Both the leak of sensitive taxpayer information from the government and its publication are punishable felonies.
In June 2021, Lankford and Senate Finance Committee Republicans immediately demanded an investigation following the apparent massive leak of more than 15 years of legally protected, personal taxpayer information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to the media outlet ProPublica. In a letter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the senators noted the nature of the information suggests it came directly from the IRS, constituting a serious breach of privacy and criminal violation of tax law. Lankford also spoke on the Senate floor about the leak and questioned Treasury’s General Counsel about how the leak and publication, both of which are felonies, occurred.
Lankford: …It is the one-year anniversary of the ProPublica release actually, and the challenge that we have is getting information about taxpayer information and how it is kept secure. We have asked for just a hearing, just a briefing, just to be able to sit down with you and your team and say, ‘How is taxpayer information being protected, what has changed in this time period?…We know there’s an investigation. But at the one-year anniversary, we just want a yes or no answer. Can we get a briefing with you and with your team on how taxpayer information is now being protected and what’s changed?
Yellen: I will certainly ask my team about that and have them get back to you, and we’ll try to arrange something. Let me just say: it is very high priority. The disclosure of confidential government information is illegal. It’s something we take very seriously. There are procedures and controls in place.
Lankford: We’re just a year into it, and we haven’t gotten any information on what’s actually happened. So we’ve heard that, but we just don’t know what’s actually happening behind the scenes. We just continue to hear and see information leaked out over and over again. So we want to get as much information as we can on it, and what’s being done, how things have changed.