WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) announced today that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled “IRS Electronic Record Retention Policies: Improving Compliance” on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 at 10:00 AM in room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building. At the hearing, Members will review a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), which found the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) fails to adequately retain electronic records, inhibiting its ability to fully respond to all electronic record requests. Members will also examine the steps the IRS is taking to address these deficiencies in order to ensure the safe preservation of taxpayer records, increase transparency, and comply with Congressional oversight efforts.
Upon announcing the hearing, Chairman Buchanan said:
“The IRS’s failure to adequately save email records is troubling. Taxpayers are expected to keep their records for years – why is the IRS unable to do the same? I look forward to hearing from the IRS about how it intends to quickly address the findings of this report.”
The IRS recently reported that when responding to requests from external parties, it determined that some documents had been lost or destroyed. Congress has also experienced similar issues when requesting IRS records as part of its investigations. As a result, Chairman Brady of the House Ways and Means Committee and Chairman Hatch of the Senate Finance Committee each sent letters to TIGTA in 2016 requesting that they determine: (1) whether the IRS’s record retention policies comply with Federal requirements, and (2) whether the IRS’ practices for responding to records requests ensure that responsive records are retained and provided according to Federal requirements.
On Monday, July 17, 2017, TIGTA publicly released its findings in a report entitled, “Electronic Record Retention Policies Do Not Consistently Ensure That Records Are Retained and Produced When Requested.” TIGTA found that the IRS’s email system does not currently meet Federal records retention requirements, and will not do so until September 2017. Furthermore, prior TIGTA work has highlighted the IRS’s failure to implement an enterprise email system that would have met these requirements. Until fully addressed, IRS employee emails are difficult, if not impossible, to search and can easily be lost or destroyed when stored on employee hard drives. As part of an interim solution, the IRS has attempted to preserve electronic records by storing 32,000 computers and hard drives of separated employees in 53 IRS facilities nationwide without a complete inventory of these devices. TIGTA also found several instances in which the IRS did not fully search or find all requested records when responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, and did not follow its own policies for documenting search efforts for employee records.