House leader raps IRS for disclosing taxpayer info

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Tex., criticized the IRS yesterday for disclosing confidential information which could end up costing taxpayers more than $1.3 million.

"It's my job today to hang another item of waste on the waste-o-meter," Armey said. "The Internal Revenue Service violated the privacy of 1,300 Arizona families by improperly disclosing confidential taxpayer information to a [certified public accountant] who had requested information for about 50 clients."

The IRS sent the accountant, who works in Tucson, Ariz., a computer printout with the requested information, but neglected to delete information for 1,300 other families that also appeared in the printout. Jodi Patterson, a spokeswoman for the IRS's Southwest District Office in Phoenix, said the personal information released was not current.

On April 7, Southwest District Director James J. Walsh sent a letter to affected taxpayers acknowledging the error, informing taxpayers of their right to sue the agency for damages resulting from the disclosure and offering each family a $1,000 administrative award for each disclosure.

"We recognized it was our error, and we wanted to make it easier to give them [the taxpayers] relief," Patterson said.

Each letter also contained a copy of the individual's confidential information that had been released.

In April, House Republicans unveiled the "waste-o-meter" to track wasteful government spending. The IRS incident brings the government waste tally to more than $13 billion, Armey said.

"The Internal Revenue Service has a responsibility to the American people to uphold the public trust. Instead, they violated that trust and are paying for it with the very money they are charged with collecting," Armey said.

The disclosure snafu could cost taxpayers up to $1.3 million if all 1,300 families decide to claim the $1,000 award for damages. If anyone decides to pursue the matter in court, the total cost to taxpayers could be higher.

Patterson said that as of yesterday, the agency had received 617 claims. She said each day brings fewer and fewer claims, and that some people have even called the office to decline the award, saying they didn't view the disclosure of their personal information as particularly damaging.

Patterson said that since January of this year, the IRS has held 20 disclosure training sessions for agency employees in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

"We are taking this very, very seriously," Patterson said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.