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After Non-Profit Application Furor, IRS Says It's Lost 2 Years Of Lerner's Email 372

Posted by timothy
from the computer-crashed-whaddya-do dept.
As reported by the Associated Press, via US News & World Report, the IRS says that it cannot locate much of the email sent by a former IRS official over a two-year period. "The IRS told Congress Friday it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year. Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups." Three congressional committees are investigating the agency because of the allegations of politically motivated mishandling of those applications, as is the Justice Department and the IRS's own inspector general. As the story says, "Congressional investigators have shown that IRS officials in Washington were closely involved in the handling of tea party applications, many of which languished for more than a year without action. But so far, they have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the agency directed the targeting or even knew about it." CBS News has a slightly different version, also based on the AP's reporting.
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After Non-Profit Application Furor, IRS Says It's Lost 2 Years Of Lerner's Email

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  • by Tailhook (98486) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:52PM (#47233901)

    The Federal Records Act requires retention of records. That email is a "record" for statutory purposes is a long settled matter. Conducting government business on a system with a retention period of 14 days and no archive is a crime.

    It's your banana republic government either deliberately neglecting their obligation to preserve or destroying evidence or both. There aren't any plausible alternatives.

    Enjoy.

  • Not on my servers (Score:4, Informative)

    by BobandMax (95054) on Friday June 13, 2014 @07:54PM (#47233911)
    I spec'ed, installed and managed mail servers for several organizations and this never happened on my watch. We had this magical power called "backups" that insulated us from user ineptitude and malfeasance. Another item is the "ten million dollars" to retrieve emails and documents. I was asked to provide several years of emails and documents involving eleven employees and specific criteria for a lawsuit. Legal had it in their hands within two days and that involved pulling and selectively restoring the identified tapes and burning to DVD. I call bullshit.
  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday June 13, 2014 @08:51PM (#47234165)

    Actually they did the same thing to socialist etc. groups. In fact the only group that was actually denied a tax exemption was a progressive church.

    But don't let facts bother you.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:00PM (#47234195)

    They seem to divulge too much information, sometimes. My understanding from this IRS issue, is that these tea party groups were filing for a special non-profit status that has a specific social improvement goal of the non-profit, which did not align with the purpose/description of said non-profit status (plainly opposite in many cases if they are trying to stop social improvements like immigration reform).

    So it seemed like the government released this information that they are doing their job properly, which the media goes nuts that it was a political witchhunt. It was not. It was purely being extra careful of a flood of applications for a non-profit that was much higher than previous years. The focus was on the type of applicant and the status applied, not the name or who applied.

    I always understood the IRS to look for patterns and anomalies, and when there are anomalies, investigate them because they are likely fraud. So, based on my understanding from reading up on this last year, I sided with the IRS.

  • by daninaustin (985354) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:13PM (#47234243)
    Same here but i work for an insurance company and do searches for legal discovery all the time. We journal everything and keep it forever ( i think it's the same way for most regulated companies now.) It's highly suspicious that they can't find this data. I can find any email sent or received going back many years and i can do it within a week (usually within hours.) either their email/archiving system is completely fucked or someone is not telling the truth. Either way, there should also be a paper record unless Lois was intentionally violating policy. If someone knows anything about the IRS email architecture it would be helpful. Anyone know what email system they are on? I assume it's Exchange but it wouldn't make much difference if it's Notes/Domino (it might actually make it easier to recover from tape.) they must have some type of email archiving system. One other thing. from the IRS's own documents, employees are required to make paper copies for FOIA . http://www.irs.gov/irm/part1/i... [irs.gov] 1.10.3.2.3 (07-08-2011) Emails as Possible Federal Records All federal employees and federal contractors are required by law to preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency. Records must be properly stored and preserved, available for retrieval and subject to appropriate approved disposition schedules. The Federal Records Act applies to email records just as it does to records you create using other media. Emails are records when they are: Created or received in the transaction of agency business Appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function and activities, or Valuable because of the information they contain If you create or receive email messages during the course of your daily work, you are responsible for ensuring that you manage them properly. The Treasury Department’s current email policy requires emails and attachments that meet the definition of a federal record be added to the organization’s files by printing them (including the essential transmission data) and filing them with related paper records. If transmission and receipt data are not printed by the email system, annotate the paper copy. More information on IRS records management requirements is available at http://erc.web.irs.gov/Display... [irs.gov] or see the Records Management Handbook, IRM 1.15.1 http://publish.no.irs.gov/IRM/... [irs.gov]). An email determined to be a federal record may eventually be considered as having historical value by the National Archivist prior to disposal. Therefore, ensure that all your communications are professional in tone. Please note that maintaining a copy of an email or its attachments within the IRS email MS Outlook application does not meet the requirements of maintaining an official record. Therefore, print and file email and its attachments if they are either permanent records or if they relate to a specific case.
  • by laird (2705) <lairdp&gmail,com> on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:16PM (#47234267) Journal

    No, in reality the IRS investigated all groups with political parties and movements in their names, since they're required by law (i.e. Congress) to only allow non-political groups to be granted tax exempt status. And the IRS investigated (and rejected) far more liberal groups than conservative groups. So (1) they were required to investigate political groups, so the investigation was not only proper, it was required by law passed by Congress, and (2) they didn't target Tea Party groups exclusively or even disproportionately.

    So what were you complaining about?

  • Re:Very fishy (Score:5, Informative)

    by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Friday June 13, 2014 @10:31PM (#47234571) Journal

    Is there a law, or Executive order, which required their retention?

    See 36 CFR 1220.14. The Federal Records Act. NARA. Actual regulations and laws requiring archiving of all records, including e-mails.

    You have presented an assymetric argument, and one that does not make any sense. Refine it, or retract it.

    We'll wait for you to do so...

  • by DutchUncle (826473) on Friday June 13, 2014 @10:57PM (#47234625)
    I work for a Fortune 500. They have strict archive and retention policies, automatically enforced at the email server. The Federal government also has archive and retention policies. The IRS, in particular, expects taxpayers to keep records FOREVER (or until you die and your will is probated). I don't need to come up with "cockamamy scenarios" to say that the IRS losing email is sort of stupid. Yes, that was two years ago; but did she lose the email of everything she was working on AT THE TIME? That would be a complete mess for any work in progress, and somehow I would imagine that the IT department tries to avoid it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 13, 2014 @10:58PM (#47234637)

    Actually they did the same thing to socialist etc. groups. In fact the only group that was actually denied a tax exemption was a progressive church.

    But don't let facts bother you.

    BULLSHIT [washingtonpost.com]

    The Internal Revenue Service on Friday apologized for targeting groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, confirming long-standing accusations by some conservatives that their applications for tax-exempt status were being improperly delayed and scrutinized.

    Lois G. Lerner, the IRS official who oversees tax-exempt groups, said the “absolutely inappropriate” actions by “front-line people” were not driven by partisan motives.

    Umm, yeah, the IRS didn't target them. That's why they apologized. And no, it wasn't for political purposes. That must be the IRS can't find her emails....

    What was that about facts bothering you?

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Friday June 13, 2014 @11:45PM (#47234769)
    >The IRS, in particular, expects taxpayers to keep records FOREVER (or until you die and your will is probated)

    What? Where are you getting this nonsense? The IRS does not expect you to keep records for your *entire life*. That's absolute moronic drivel. In fact, the IRS doesn't require you to do *anything*; it's congress that writes the tax code. Not just a different entity, a completely different branch of government. The IRS isn't some extra-legal entity that makes up their own rules to inflict on citizens and delights in making them difficult.

    Anyway, you're required to keep records until the audit window for tax returns dependent on those records expires, no longer. Rarely will an individual have to keep any record of any kind longer than 7 years after the last filing year that record affected; the vast majority of records can be destroyed after no more than 4 years, and almost all people can fit the documents they're required to keep longer than 7 years in a single manilla folder (if they have any at all).

    Are you just one of those people who think the IRS are evil because of your strict constructionist views, or something? Maybe you live in a compound in Idaho? Because this whole "IRS is evil and seeks out ways to fuck and/or control the average taxpayer in service of XYZ political force" notion is just so fucking far from the truth I seriously wonder what kind of willful ignorance or bizarre lies someone must experience to believe it.
  • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @12:23AM (#47234875) Journal

    >The IRS, in particular, expects taxpayers to keep records FOREVER (or until you die and your will is probated) What? Where are you getting this nonsense? The IRS does not expect you to keep records for your *entire life*. That's absolute moronic drivel. In fact, the IRS doesn't require you to do *anything*; it's congress that writes the tax code. Not just a different entity, a completely different branch of government. The IRS isn't some extra-legal entity that makes up their own rules to inflict on citizens and delights in making them difficult.

    There are approximately 2600 pages of tax law. That generated over 70,000 pages of tax regulations - which the IRS essentially wrote themselves and enforce. To a large extent, they did make up their own rules.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:4, Informative)

    by buybuydandavis (644487) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @01:55AM (#47235079)

    I would settle for this Administration following the rule of law.

    Ha! Laws are for peasants, not their rulers.

  • Re:Yawn (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sarius64 (880298) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @08:02AM (#47235703)

    Or you can just rig the system, like Obama's advisers do, apparently.

    All the President’s Muses: Obama and Prosecutorial Misconduct [observer.com]

  • by DutchUncle (826473) on Saturday June 14, 2014 @10:37AM (#47236257)
    None of the above, I'm one of those people who has gotten burned because I didn't keep the purchase records for something 25 years earlier, and when I sold it and had to declare a profit, I spent many hours trying to find proof of the cost basis. Perhaps you have not yet bought (or inherited) real property, assets of declarable and insurable value, or stock, and thus have not yet encountered these issues (no, wait, if you're younger you may have bought stock in the no-certificate book-entry-only broker-keeps-records era rather than the old transferable-piece-of-paper era, which makes life a lot easier - until your broker goes under). Rather than insult you back, I will urge you to research the record-keeping requirements before the IRS expects you to pay tax on ordinary income for the ENTIRE sale price of something because, without proof of original investment cost, they peg it at zero.

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