Ways & Means Committee Approves Kelly Bill to Prevent IRS Leaks of Private Citizens’ Information

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) – a member of the House Ways and Means Committee – issued the following statement after today’s Ways and Means committee mark-up hearing at which the committee approved H.R. 1026, the Taxpayer Knowledge of IRS Investigations Act, which Rep. Kelly introduced in the House of Representatives on February 26, 2015. H.R. 1026 would amend the tax code to stop the IRS’s misuse of a provision designed to protect taxpayers to instead protect government employees who improperly look at or reveal taxpayer information.

“I strongly applaud the committee for its favorable mark-up of this commonsense bill to stop personal taxpayer information from being leaked by the IRS. When such a breach of trust is committed, the most feared federal agency must not be permitted to hide behind provisions meant to protect taxpayers in the first place. Americans rightly expect and deserve transparency from their government and to be treated fairly. This bill is a serious step toward repairing the broken trust between the American people and their government.”

BACKGROUND: On May 13, 2013, it was revealed that the IRS division headed by now-retired official Lois Lerner shared highly confidential tax-exempt status applications from multiple conservative groups with ProPublica, a private outside organization. In October 2013, it was reported that the agency “shared highly confidential tax information of several Tea Party groups in the IRS scandal with the Federal Election Commission, a clear violation of federal law.”

H.R. 1026 would amend the tax code to permit the release of certain information regarding the status of ongoing investigations related to the improper disclosure of taxpayer information by IRS employees. Under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, it is currently a felony for an IRS official to disclose such information to the public or to another government agency, which bars victims of wrongful IRS leaks from knowing the status of their no-longer private information.

NOTE: Since news of the IRS targeting scandal first broke in May 2013, Rep. Kelly has been a prominent vocal leader in the ongoing pursuit for answers and accountability. After earning a standing ovation for his fierce scolding of then-IRS commissioner Steven Miller at the Ways and Means Committee’s first-ever hearing on the scandal, The Washington Post’s Right Turn blog named Rep. Kelly its “Distinguished Pol of the Week.” The New York Post declared that Rep. Kelly’s words “ought to be emblazoned across the entryway of every IRS office in America.”

In response to the scandal, Rep. Kelly re-introduced the Government Employee Accountability Act, which would grant all federal agencies the power to fire reckless Senior Executive Service employees (such as ex-IRS official Lois Lerner) on the spot, or place them on “investigative leave” without pay. The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives on August 1, 2013, as part of the Stop Government Abuse Act (H.R. 2879) by a bipartisan vote of 239-176. Rep. Kelly re-introduced the bill once again on February 4, 2015.