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Work to Prevent Politicized Leaks of Private Taxpayer Information Continues Three Years After Initial IRS Leak

June 12, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Three years after ProPublica published what it described as a “massive trove” or a “vast cache” of IRS information, the culprit who illegally leaked that information, Charles Edward Littlejohn, has been sentenced to the maximum allowable sentence for a crime referred to as “the greatest heist” in IRS history. Yet the Ways and Means Committee is continuing its work to ensure such a leak never happens again, including with recent Committee passed legislation that increases penalties for leakers.

Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) issued the following statement on the anniversary:

“Americans deserve a tax system that is not weaponized against them – yet the theft and unlawful disclosure of confidential financial information for political gain proves change is needed. Not only did we urge the judge to issue the maximum allowable sentence – which she did – we have also passed out of Committee the Taxpayer Data Protection Act, which increases the maximum fine and imprisonment period for unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information, and will help deter individuals from violating the trust of American taxpayers. Such flagrant disregard for the law in pursuit of political victories is an attack on our norms and our values.”

Littlejohn unlawfully disclosed thousands of Americans’ private tax information to ProPublica, as well as disclosed the tax information of President Donald Trump to the New York Times – all to advance the radical Lefts’ tax agenda.

Background on the Taxpayer Data Protection Act (H.R. 8292)
Introduced by Chairman Smith (MO-08) and co-sponsored by every Ways and Means Republican member, H.R. 8292 deters the unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information, helping prevent a repeat of the IRS contractor who stole and leaked thousands of tax returns, including those of former President Trump.

The bill passed the Committee 40-1. 

  • Starting in 2019, an IRS contractor, Charles Littlejohn, stole taxpayer data and leaked it to The New York Times and ProPublica. The organizations subsequently published a significant amount of confidential tax information in a series of articles. 
  • In 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Mr. Littlejohn, with one count of disclosing tax return information without authorization – despite him having stolen and leaked the return and return information of thousands of taxpayers.
  • Despite the volume of taxpayer information stolen and the disclosures to two distinct organizations, Mr. Littlejohn was only charged with one count of unauthorized disclosure. As a result, he received the maximum sentence under current law of a $5,000 fine and 5 years in prison. 
  • This bill raises the maximum fine for an unauthorized disclosure up to $250,000 and up to 10 years imprisonment, or both for the unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information. 
  • In addition, the legislation ensures that each taxpayer impacted by a disclosure will count as a separate and distinct violation of the law. 

Read the one pager here.