IRS Whistleblowers Office Denied Claims

Alex Richardson filed this request with the Internal Revenue Service of the United States of America.
Tracking # F15055-0213
Status
Rejected

Communications

From: Alex Richardson

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

A copy of all claims of $1 billion or more submitted to the IRS Whistleblowers Office that were denied or closed without action. This includes but is not limited to any relevant communications, processing notes and conclusions.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, and is not being made for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Alex Richardson

From: Internal Revenue Service

The request has been rejected, with the agency stating that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the requested documents.

From: Alex Richardson

March 12, 2015

To Whom It May Concern,

I am appealing a denial of access to public records. The Internal Revenue Service has rejected my request for several different categories of records in its entirety, citing a number of exemptions. I believe that several of these exemptions do not apply to the requested documents and that insofar as exemptions do apply, documents could be released with limited redactions.

On February 24, 2015, I filed a request with the Internal Revenue Service for:

A copy of all claims of $1 billion or more submitted to the IRS Whistleblowers Office that were denied or closed without action. This includes but is not limited to any relevant communications, processing notes and conclusions.

In the agency’s rejection letter dated March 3, 2015, in which it claimed that it could neither confirm nor deny the existence of the requested documents, the IRS cited FOIA exemptions (b)(6), (b)(7)(C), (b)(7)(D) and (b)(3) pursuant to IRS Codes 6013(a) and 6013(e)(7). I will address each exemption individually.

FOIA exemption (b)(6) states that personnel, medical and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy are exempted from disclosure. However, as noted in the Department of Justice Guide to the FOIA, it was determined in Sims v. CIA that exemption (b)(6) applies only to individuals. It seems highly unlikely that any claims of $1 billion or more were submitted to the IRS Whistleblowers Office that pertained to individuals and not businesses. Moreover, as it is exemption (b)(6) that allows the agency to claim the so-called “Glomar” response, I assert that at the very least the agency must acknowledge the possession of these documents.

FOIA exemption (b)(7)(C) applies to records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only so far as the production of such records or information could reasonably constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Once again, I believe that all or most of the records in question pertain to businesses, and therefore do not satisfy the personal privacy requirement.

FOIA exemption (b)(7)(D) applies to records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only so far as such records could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source. I am sympathetic to the need to protect confidential sources, but I believe that the records could be redacted in such a way as to avoid the disclosure of that source’s identity. Surely the businesses in question were made aware that they were being investigated or considered for investigation by the IRS Whistleblowers Office, and this information would necessarily have been shared in such a way as to obscure the identity of the confidential source. Any of the documents created in the conveyance of this information would categorically not meet the requirements of exemption (b)(7)(D).

FOIA exemption (b)(3) applies to documents that are specifically exempted from disclosure by another law. The IRS cited Internal Revenue Code sections 6103(a) and 6103(e)(7), both of which exempt the disclosure of tax returns. I believe that many, if not all of the documents that I requested are not tax returns and therefore not exempted from disclosure under these sections.

I have attached all communications with the Internal Revenue Service regarding this request. I respectfully ask that you exercise your authority to remand this request back to the Internal Revenue Service for a good faith search and provision of public records.

Sincerely,

Alex Richardson

Enclosure: Original Request, Agency Response

From: Internal Revenue Service

A letter stating that the request appeal has been rejected.

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