Skip to Main Content
Project on Government Oversight

Court Orders IRS to Comply with 30-Year-Old FOIA Request

Related Content: FOIA
Printer Friendly
June 17, 2008

From POGO's blog:

In 1976, Judge Walter McGovern ordered the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to turn over data on the agency's audits, collections, and other enforcement activities.  Now, more than thirty years later, his ruling might finally become a reality.

The motion against the IRS was originally filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by a statistician named Susan Long, who is now a professor at Syracuse University's Martin J. Whitman School of Management and a co-director--along with POGO board member David Burnham--of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).  TRAC compiles data obtained in part through FOIA requests to provide the public with "comprehensive information about staffing, spending, and enforcement activities" of the IRS and other federal agencies.

For many years, the IRS more or less complied with Judge McGovern's order.  However, under the current administration, the IRS has defied the court order by withholding huge amounts of information.  In 2006, Long was forced to file another motion.  This time, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ordered the agency to turn over the requested information within fourteen days, and awarded Long more than $45,000 in attorney fees.

But the IRS has still not complied with the court orders.  On Friday, Judge Pechman ruled once again that the IRS must provide Long with all the data she originally requested more than three decades ago.  The court order also instructed the IRS to release its data to Long on a monthly basis.

It is simply astonishing that the IRS has been able to defy the court order for such a long period of time, withholding information of great interest to the general public.  "The IRS is, in some ways, the largest and most powerful enforcement agency in the federal government," Burnham told the Syracuse Post-Standard.  "This refusal to let the public see what's going on is outrageous." 

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

Related Work