IRS Manual: 5 Years in Prison, $5,000 Fine for Leaking Tax Docs

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IRS Scandal

The Inspector General report released late Tuesday omitted the names of the IRS agents or personnel involved in targeting tea party and limited government groups. But according to the official IRS manual, any individuals found to have engaged in the “unauthorized disclosure of a return or return information” may be subject to felony charges punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and five years in prison.

From the IRS Internal Revenue Manual:

11.3.1.6.1  (03-07-2008) Criminal Penalties Under IRC § 7213 

    1. IRC § 7213 makes the willful unauthorized disclosure of a return or return information a felony punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.

Upon conviction, officers or employees of the United States will also be dismissed from office or discharged from employment.

Note: IRC § 7213 also covers willful disclosures of software source code data protected by IRC § 7612.

Lawmakers and political observers across the political spectrum have expressed surprise and frustration with President Barack Obama’s reticence thus far to fire or imprison wrongdoers in the many scandals that now consume his second term. 

“What does somebody have to do to get fired around here?” asks Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt. “It turns out that the IRS was also leaking private info about conservatives to liberals in the media. Administration officials are trying to say this was isolated to a handful of lower-level employees in the IRS. But it is a reflection of the agency and administration at the highest levels. The most prominent heads should roll.”

Top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has also expressed frustration. "I think laws were probably broken,” said Cummings, “but at the least there have been some improper actions on the part of the IRS. I’d love for my committee to have a hearing on this. Because I have great concerns about what they knew, when they knew it, and what if anything they did about it, whether or not they were honest with the Congress.”

Others have expressed similar sentiments related to other matters. Yesterday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent Attorney General Eric Holder a letter inquiring as to why the Obama Justice Department has failed to prosecute a single senior Wall Street executive in the wake of the financial meltdown.

And progressive Daily Beast columnist Micahel Tomasky called for Obama to ask Holder to resign over DOJ’s snooping into Associated Press (AP) phone records.

Yet, so far, the Obama White House has not seen fit to fire anyone in involved in the myriad scandals. 

That may soon change.

“My question is, who’s going to jail over this [IRS] scandal?” asked Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) this morning at a press conference.


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