McConnell presses for 'actual consequences' in disclosure of tax data

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI need to investigate the disclosure of confidential tax information to ProPublica and bring criminal charges against those who are responsible.

"Actual consequences. As a matter of justice, and as a practical deterrent," McConnell said in a Senate floor speech. “The federal government owes taxpayers nothing less.”

The floor speech comes after McConnell, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (R-Idaho) and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection MORE (R-Iowa) sent a letter to the DOJ and the FBI urging them to investigate the disclosure and prosecute whoever was behind it.

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ProPublica last week published a report on the taxes of prominent U.S. billionaires that was based on IRS data it obtained from an anonymous source. The news outlet said that it does not know the identity of its source and didn't solicit the information.

Unauthorized disclosures of confidential tax information are illegal, and the disclosure to ProPublica has been referred to several government agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

Policymakers on both sides of the aisle are urging the federal government to investigate the disclosure. Republicans, who have long disliked the IRS, are particularly focusing on the issue.

McConnell expressed concerns about the federal government's ability to safeguard taxpayers' information.

“American taxpayers are required by law to comply with invasive disclosure requirements, and they’re doing it with less and less confidence that the federal government will honor their trust," he said.

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McConnell also said that this isn't the first time that there has been an unauthorized disclosure of tax information, and argued that the past history "tells conservatives to be especially worried."

McConnell last month introduced legislation aimed at codifying a Trump-era IRS rule that reduced donor disclosure requirements for certain tax-exempt groups. He said that he's been "outspoken in support of efforts to reduce taxpayers’ exposure to unnecessary IRS collection in the first place," and that prosecution in instances of unauthorized disclosures are important.

"Every time a leak goes without serious investigation and criminal prosecution, basic public trust in our tax system suffers," he said.

Top Republicans in the House are also raising concerns about the disclosure of confidential tax data to ProPublica.

Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyRepublicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change GOP, business groups snipe at Biden restaurant remarks Top Democrat offers bill to overhaul tax break for business owners MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement Tuesday that he spoke with IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig earlier this week about the matter, and that Rettig said that an investigation is underway by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

"I urged Commissioner Rettig to devote all possible resources to assist in the investigation, to safeguard current and past private tax returns, and to keep Congress informed in a timely way on developments in this issue including any evidence of political influence or motivations,” Brady said.