Date: Updated Saturday May 16, 2009
President Obama’s memorandum calling for federal agencies to make information easily obtainable by the public and in fact release information relevant to public debates before requested, does not apply to the IRS, according to one of its disclosure specialists.
When asked to reverse a decision to charge $1,000 to release statistical information regarding the use of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers by immigrants who cannot obtain a social security number because they are illegally in the country, an IRS disclosure officer said “I am not going to change my mind because of a presidential memorandum.” In a letter dated May 13, 2009, the officer Karen Berrie, made it official saying “I have reconsidered this issue bases (stet) on the Department of Justice FOIA guidelines and have not changed my determination.” The officer refused to consider a web based publication a news organization citing IRS policy.
However, the agency’s own guide for those making Freedom of Information Act Requests states “The FOIA requires that the IRS waive or reduce fees if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.”
As the country prepares to again debate amnesty and claims by amnesty supporters that undocumented workers are net contributors to the United States, the IRS is holding data that can show just how much tax revenue these workers contribute to the federal treasury and whether they are in any significant numbers following tax laws.
While President Obama has said many times his administration would provide greater access than did the Bush Administration, the IRS under President Bush did release the information for the period from 1996 to 2003 without charge.