Tax Division attorneys from the Department of Justice, some of whom worked directly on the IRS' illegal targeting of Tea Party groups, are now giving legal advice to the White House with no safeguards to prevent the abuse of private taxpayer information, says a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of D.C. by a watchdog group.
Cause of Action, a nonprofit government accountability group, filed the complaint against the DOJ and the IRS after both government agencies refused to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests filed in April asking how Americans' private tax information will be protected from abuse by government attorneys.
"Given the IRS' track record of failing to protect confidential tax information, this lack of agency oversight is a threat to our privacy and democracy," said Dan Epstein, president of Cause of Action, in a statement. "Ethical and legal protocols at these agencies should be held to the highest standards, especially when government attorneys are accessing confidential taxpayer return information while intermittently leaving to work in the White House."
A spokesperson for the Internal Revenue Service told the Washington Examiner that in a general sense, U.S. code 6103 governs confidentiality of tax returns but did not respond with a comment on Cause of Action's complaint.
"Federal law and regulations strictly limit what, if any, taxpayer information Department employees may share — whether employees work at the Department of Justice or elsewhere, and regardless of their status as current or former federal employees," Nicole A. Navas, a DOJ spokesperson, told Washington Examiner in a statement.
The watchdog group Cause of Action has also asked DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate.