It didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, but a little over a month and a half ago, Pro Publica revealed they had a trove of IRS records revealing the tax returns for some of the nation’s wealthiest earners. The DOJ is investigating the leak (as they should), but Pro Publica, a very left-leaning journalistic outfit that borders on progressive propaganda, took the tone that the leak was for the good of the nation.
ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.
Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year.
Pro Publica said they had obtained the data after publishing articles “scrutinizing” the IRS, but declined to say how they obtained the records, prompting an outcry that the records may have been part of an illegal leak. Attorney General Merrick Garland promised to put an investigation into the leak at the top of his priority list, but members of the Senate GOP are already concerned about the lack of details and movement on the investigation and have written to the FBI requesting information. They’ve also warned of possible hearings on the matter.
“The self-reporting nature of our system of taxation makes it vitally important that taxpayers have trust that their personal information will be treated respectfully and confidentially as they comply with our nation’s tax laws. In return, the government must protect their records to maintain that trust. The Internal Revenue Code places such high importance on taxpayer privacy that criminal and civil penalties are specifically identified for the unauthorized access or disclosure of that information,” the senators wrote.
Now one GOP Representative, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania who serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, is said to be “infuriated” at leaks of records to journalists and is pushing back on Democrats plans to give $80 billion over 10 years to the IRS as part of a plan to pay for their infrastructure package.
Democrats argued the funding proposal would level the playing field by empowering the IRS to crack down on wealthier Americans who are cheating the system. Some hundreds of billions of dollars of taxes go uncollected each year by the agency, though estimates vary widely on how much more the agency would collect if it were to receive more funding.
In an interview last week, Mr. Kelly said he hasn’t seen justification that the plan would work and that the agency has not shared details on how it would spend additional funds.
“Do they need more money? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone come up with a plan saying: Here’s what we need, here’s where we need it, and, by the way, this is stuff that’s obsolete and we no longer will be doing it,” Mr. Kelly said.
The Pro Publica leak is coming into sharper focus, as is the tendency of Democrats to use the media to justify their out-of-control spending and other unpopular policy positions.