The inspector general for tax administration at the Treasury Department will investigate the allegation that an Obama administration official may have improperly accessed and discussed private taxpayer information.
At an August 27 press briefing, a senior administration official, who appears to have been Austan Goolsbee, discussed the tax status of Koch Industries--a private company that has come under fire from top Democrats, including President Obama himself, for funding conservative and libertarian political causes.
"In this country we have partnerships, we have S corps, we have LLCs, we have a series of entities that do not pay corporate income tax," said the senior administration official. "Some of which are really giant firms, you know Koch Industries is a multibillion dollar businesses."
A lawyer for Koch Industries objected to the official's decision to single out Koch and asked how the official had knowledge of Koch's tax status. An Obama administration official claimed that the tax information came from publicly available sources.
But on September 24, Republican senators wrote in a letter to the inspector general that they were unsatisfied with this explanation. Senator Chuck Grassley and other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee requested that the inspector general look into the "very serious allegation that Administration employees may have improperly accessed and disclosed confidential taxpayer information."
The Obama administration official's August 27 "statement that Koch is a pass-through entity implies direct knowledge of Koch’s legal and tax status, which would appear to be a violation of section 6103," the senators wrote in their letter. "Alternatively, if the statement was based on speculation, it raises the question of whether the Administration speculating about any specific taxpayer’s liability is appropriate."
In response to the senators' request, Inspector General J. Russell George writes in a letter today: "As the Inspector General charged with ensuring, among other things, the fair implementation of our Nation's system of tax administration ... I have ordered the commencement of a review into the matters alleged."
"After completing this review," George concludes, "I will advise you of the results to the extent allowable by law."