Congressman Wants The IRS To Explain Itself

IT Management

Share this Post

It was revealed earlier this week that the IRS probably digs through your email without a warrant during its investigations. It's able to do this thanks to the outdated ECPA which allows government agencies to obtain emails that are more than 180 days old. Now one lawmaker wants the IRS to explain itself.

The Hill reports that Rep. Charles Boustany, chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Oversight, sent a letter to the IRS asking the agency to explain how it obtains emails, and when it thinks it can obtain said emails without a warrant. Boustany asks that the IRS provide the following information by April 26:

  • 1. The IRS's current policy on searching taxpayer emails, including when it believes it must obtain a search warrant and when it does not.
  • 2. Any internal communications, including memos and guidelines, among and between IRS and Department of the Treasury, regarding changes to the IRS's policy on searching taxpayer emails.
  • 3. The IRS's current policy on searching and reviewing taxpayer social media profiles, and any internal memos and guidelines on the matter.
  • 4. What information would the IRS seek in a search of a taxpayer's online social media profiles?
  • 5. How many times has the IRS searched taxpayer emails and online social media profiles between 2010 and 2013? How many taxpayers have been subject to these searches in this time period?
  • The IRS hasn't indicated whether or not it intends to answer the congressman's questions, but it did issue this statement:

    "Our job is to administer the nation's tax laws, and we do so in a way that follows the law and treats taxpayers with respect. Contrary to some suggestions, the IRS does not use emails to target taxpayers. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong."

    It's important to note that the documents obtained by the ACLU never outright said the IRS obtained emails without a warrant. The agency only said it was possible while saying that Internet users "do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy." Of course, such statements don't exactly inspire confidence, and people want to know if the IRS ever did take advantage of the ECPA to obtain emails without a warrant.

    Even if the IRS did access emails without a warrant, it may not be able to do so much longer. Both the House and the Senate are working on laws that would update the ECPA to require a warrant when government agencies wish to access emails.