IRS chief John Koskinen

IRS chief John Koskinen Susan Walsh/AP

IRS Chief Refuses to Apologize to Lawmakers on Missing Emails

Republican oversight panel member accuses Koskinen of 'misleading' Congress and American people.

Internal Revenue Commissioner John Koskinen late Wednesday turned aside a demand that he apologize for untimely notification of Congress that the tax agency had lost thousands of emails sought by investigators probing political targeting allegations.

At a hearing on agencies perpetually on the Government Accountability Office’s high risk-list, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, confronted Koskinen on a letter he sent to the Senate Finance Committee last March in which he said the Internal Revenue Service had completed its submission of all requested emails on handling of nonprofits’ applications -- without mentioning that some from former Exempt Organizations chief Lois Lerner had been lost.

“Will you admit that, like Lois Lerner and [former Commissioner] Doug Shulman, you misled this committee, this Congress and, more importantly, the American people,” Jordan asked. “Have you withdrawn the letter to Senate Finance?”

Koskinen replied, “Absolutely not. We waited six weeks to tell while trying to find as many of the emails as we could. We gave you all of Ms. Lerner’s emails we had.  We couldn’t make up Lois Lerner emails we didn’t have.”

Jordan, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, then noted that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported last week that its staff was able to restore some 80,000 of the missing emails. “When are you going to get square with the American people and withdraw false and misleading statements in your letter?” he asked.

Koskinen said the IRS had confirmed last June that the emails were lost and that their backup tapes had been recorded over, as is standard practice. “TIGTA has spent six months and untold amounts of money to restore them,” he noted. “There are no falsehoods. I stand by that letter.”

The IRS chief also took criticism from Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., about a recent TIGTA report showing that IRS re-hired poor performing employees, some guilty of misconduct and even tax delinquency.  “This came up at town meetings in my district,” Walberg said, noting that 11 percent in the watchdog study were guilty of past misconduct, including five who failed to file returns.

Koskinen said most of those employees were seasonal or temporary workers and were hired from 2009-2012 in accordance with the Office of Personnel Management manual. But in 2012, his agency consolidated hiring of past employees. “IRS employees have a 99 percent tax compliance rate, higher than others, because we hold them accountable for mistakes, not just fraud,” Koskinen said. He promised Walberg he would get back to him on the situation with the five tax delinquents.