Investigators probing how sensitive information such as income figures was leaked to a news outlets have made referrals to the FBI, a tax official said this week.
“Treasury announced yesterday that they made investigative referrals to their Office of Inspector General as well as the FBI, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia,” Douglas O’Donnell, a deputy commissioner at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), told a congressional committee in Washington on Thursday. “We fully support any investigation under taken and will urge the investigative authorities to keep Congress appropriately informed of their findings.”
IRS officials “want to know what happened, urgently,” he added. “We take this matter very seriously. And we’ll be pushing as hard as we can to ensure that we learn as soon as possible, what actually did happen.”
ProPublica published files that some of the wealthiest Americans, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, had submitted to the IRS as part of normal tax processes. It claimed the Americans paid a lower tax rate than those making less than them. The outlet said it did not know the source of the files.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told a Senate panel earlier in the week that an investigation had been opened “with respect to the allegations that the source of that article came from the Internal Revenue Service.”
And White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the matter would be probed by the Treasury Department’s inspector general, as well as the FBI and the U.S. attorney for Washington.
“Any unauthorized disclosure of confidential government information by a person with access is illegal, and we take this very seriously,” she said.
“I can tell you that, broadly speaking, we know that there is more to be done to ensure that corporations, individuals who are at the highest income are paying more of their fair share, hence it’s in the president’s proposals, his budget, and part of how he’s proposing to pay for his ideas,” she also said.