Searching for IRS Answers

Last Monday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing to question Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen on the agency losing two years’ worth of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s e-mails central to the Congressional investigation into the IRS' political targeting. As part of its investigation the Oversight Committee issued subpoenas for several IRS documents, including 2009 – 2011 e-mail communications of Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS department charged with the targeting.

Unfortunately, the IRS currently is unable to produce these documents. Claiming that Lois Lerner’s emails during that period were “lost” in a server crash and her computer's hard drive was thrown out, therefore destroying all possible traces of the e-mails.

As a former computer consultant, I think the IRS losing these documents is highly suspicious. Our current technology allows for almost everything to be stored; the NSA is proof of that.

My questioning of Commissioner Koskinen began by telling him that the American people don’t believe for a second that these e-mails were lost accidentally.

The IRS is required to keep records under the Federal Records Act (FRA). The commissioner explained that the IRS uses a print-to-file system to record documents, and that this complied with the FRA. Then he told me that the IRS did not have a hard copy of Ms. Lerner’s emails either. I don’t think that their system for recording documents is effective, especially since the system failed to keep hard copies of Lois Lerner’s emails.

If the average American lost their tax records due to a server crash, the IRS wouldn’t say that they understand the problem, instead they audit the person. There cannot be a double standard, and the IRS must be able to produce documents for the American public.

When I asked Commissioner Koskinen if it would have been easier and environmentally greener if the IRS used electronic storage, he replied “no doubt,” but blamed the IRS’s inability to switch because they lack the resources to do so. With minimal resources and a calculator app on my phone, I was able to propose a cost-effective plan for the IRS to store e-mail data that would prevent future losses.

Printing a page cost between 5-8 cents, and with the massive amounts of documents the IRS has it is a huge tax payer expense to use a print-to-file system. For 1,200 sheets of paper the IRS could purchase 1 terabyte hard drive that can store over 65,000 word documents that are 9 pages long. This could save the IRS $21 million, so I don’t believe they do not have the resources to use electronic storage.

The IRS is required to save everything under the FRA, and clearly that was not done. The IRS’s claim that the emails were lost will not stop my investigation into finding out how the decision made was to target certain groups based on political beliefs.

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