Senators press the IRS for information about erased hard drive

Greg Nash

The leaders of the Senate Finance Committee are pressing IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for information about his agency's record-keeping practices after another incident involving an erased hard drive. 

Recent court filings state that in April 2015, the IRS "sanitized" an ex-employee's hard drive that was subject to a litigation hold in a matter in federal court in Washington state, according to a letter from committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin HatchA bipartisan bright spot we can’t afford to pass up: child welfare reform Medicare trust fund running out of money fast Long past time to fix evidence-sharing across borders MORE (R-Utah) and ranking member Ron WydenRon WydenIRS inversion rules face blowback Senate faces critical vote on Puerto Rico Reid backs House Puerto Rico bill MORE (D-Ore.). 

"The IRS’s missteps in preserving documents — whether they be the subject of a congressional investigation, court order, or FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request — are concerning, and necessitate further oversight into the agency’s document preservation practices," Hatch and Wyden wrote.

The matter relates to the IRS's controversial hiring of an outside law firm to help in an audit of Microsoft, Law360 reported.

The former employee left the IRS in August 2014, and under standard IRS practice, his hard drive should have been recycled by the end of the following month. But this didn't happen "for unknown reasons," and the drive was not cleared of data until after a FOIA request that may have concerned documents on the drive, the letter stated.

The disclosure that the hard drive was erased comes after the IRS accidentally destroyed 422 backup tapes and as many as 24,000 emails subject to document requests in the Finance Committee's investigation into how the IRS treats tax-exempt organizations, according to the letter.

Hatch and Wyden asked that Koskinen provide information including a narrative of the custody of the hard drive, an explanation of why the hard drive was destroyed in April 2015 and an update of any efforts the IRS is taking to better maintain electronic records.

The Finance Committee leaders asked Koskinen to respond to the request by Feb. 5 and to provide the requested documents by Feb. 19.