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Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Markup of the Taxpayer Data Protection Act

May 15, 2024

“The bill before us today, sponsored by every Republican member on this Committee, helps ensure bad actors are prevented from stealing and disclosing taxpayer information.”

As prepared for delivery.

“Americans file their tax returns every year with the expectation that their data and personal tax information are protected and secure from unlawful disclosure. Unfortunately, the recent criminal actions of an IRS leaker make clear that Congress must act to ensure these crimes are fully prosecuted and that would-be bad actors are deterred in the future.

“Between 2017 and 2021, Charles Littlejohn worked as a contractor for the IRS through the firm of Booz Allen. Half of Mr. Littlejohn’s taxpayer-funded career was spent stealing taxpayer information – in particular information belonging to President Trump, as well as that of other political targets. 

“Mr. Littlejohn then leaked the confidential tax return information to the New York Times and ProPublica so they could publish articles about President Trump and notable figures such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffet along with many others.

“Mr. Littlejohn took active steps to avoid detection by the IRS, including uploading the information to a private website, and storing the information on multiple personal storage devices. 

“Once he became the subject of an investigation into the leaks, he deleted and destroyed evidence linking him to these crimes.

“Once caught, Mr. Littlejohn admitted that he was ‘aware of the potential consequences’ and, in fact, he made his decision ‘with full knowledge that [he] would end up in a courtroom.’

“The current law failed to protect taxpayers because it failed to deter Mr. Littlejohn.

“In September of last year, the Department of Justice made the bizarre decision to charge Mr. Littlejohn with just a single count of unauthorized disclosure of private tax information. He stole the tax return information of thousands of individuals, submitted that information to two separate news organizations, and obstructed the DOJ’s investigation.

“After Republicans on this Committee sent a letter to the judge overseeing this case about the DOJ’s lackluster charge and urged her to give him the maximum sentence available, Mr. Littlejohn did in fact receive the maximum under the circumstances: 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. During the sentencing, the judge called his crimes ‘an attack on our constitutional democracy.’

“The bill before us today, sponsored by every Republican member on this Committee, helps ensure bad actors are prevented from stealing and disclosing taxpayer information.

“The Taxpayer Data Protection Act increases the maximum penalty for the unauthorized disclosure of returns and return information to include a fine of up to $250,000, or imprisonment of 10 years, or both. It also ensures that each taxpayer impacted by a disclosure will count as a separate and distinct violation of the law.

“It is up to us as members of the chief tax-writing committee in Congress to protect the public trust and to secure private taxpayer information.

“I urge all my colleagues to support this legislation and send a clear message that Congress will not tolerate criminal leaks of taxpayer information.”