IRS To Public: You Need To Hold Onto Your Records For 2-7 Years; We'll Just Trash Ours Whenever We Feel Like It

from the hire-an-accountant-and-marvel-at-our-lack-of-accountability dept

How long should I keep my records?

Note: Keep copies of your filed tax returns. They help in preparing future tax returns and making computations if you file an amended return.
  1. You owe additional tax and situations (2), (3), and (4), below, do not apply to you; keep records for 3 years.
  2. You do not report income that you should report, and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return; keep records for 6 years.
  3. You file a fraudulent return; keep records indefinitely.
  4. You do not file a return; keep records indefinitely.
  5. You file a claim for credit or refund* after you file your return; keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
  6. You file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction; keep records for 7 years.

Keep all employment tax records for at least 4 years after the date that the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.

Source: IRS

How long should the IRS hold onto emails that are considered part of public records?

Answer: until the hard drive is recycled.
Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner's crashed hard drive has been recycled, making it likely the lost emails of the lightening rod in the tea party targeting controversy will never be found, according to multiple sources.

"We've been informed that the hard drive has been thrown away," Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said in a brief hallway interview.
Citizens, the burden of proof lies on you when the IRS starts asking questions. You retain these records or bear the consequences. When the IRS loses two years of email, it simply rehashes what happens, shrugs its shoulders and waits for the NSA's Glomar on Lois Lerner's email metadata.

On one hand, at the point it was thrown away, those currently being investigated by Congress probably had no idea the emails contained would be requested two years later. On the other hand, the agency has the specific duty to retain this information to remain in compliance with federal public records regulations. Scrapping a hard drive doesn't sound like the move of an agency interested in maintaining public records.

Lerner's crashed hard drive was subpoenaed by Darrell Issa and computer forensics experts were fairly certain they could recover the data from the drive. But the drive no longer exists and it appears the IRS never made an effort to recover anything IRS-related from the drive.

Lerner, however, seemed greatly concerned about the recovery of certain items unrelated to the public records she was supposed to be maintaining. Here's a screenshot of an email discussing the crash, posted by John Hinderaker at Power Line.


If you can't see this screenshot, it says the following:
It was nice to meet you this morning -- although I would have preferred it was under different circumstances. I'm taking you up on your offer to try and recapture my lost personal files. My computer skills are pretty basic, so nothing fancy -- but there were some documents in the files that are irreplaceable. Whatever you can do to help, is greatly appreciated…
As Hinderaker points out, Lerner seems dismayed to have lost some personal files, but is completely unconcerned that years of emails may have been destroyed as well.
It is remarkable that Lerner does not say: "Oh no! My hard drive crashed, and the IRS's only copy of two years' worth of my highly important work has been lost!" No: she is concerned about "my lost personal files," because "there were some documents in the files that are irreplaceable." That is a clearly stated and entirely reasonable concern, but it has nothing to do with losing the agency's only record of two years of work.
As more details come out, the IRS is looking worse and worse. But these additional details are pushing the perception more into the "expected bureaucratic incompetence" area, rather than towards "large-scale conspiracy to destroy evidence."

Still, the agency's long-standing practice of taping over previous backups and pitifully small amounts of email storage doesn't exactly evoke confidence in the IRS's ability to maintain public records. That whatever effort was actually made to recover data from Lerner's crashed computer seems to have revolved around "personal" files makes this situation even worse. The IRS requires hard copy backups of any email that could conceivably be part of the "public record," but it appears that no one involved followed that rule. The rash of coincidental crashes only adds to the negative perception.

The IRS -- and the government -- demands so much from its citizens with pages and pages of federal regulations but it can't even be bothered to follow the few rules it sets for itself. Pathetic.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 12:04pm

    Do as I say!!!

    not as I do.

    Lesson #1 when dealing with Authority!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 12:13pm

    My computer skills are pretty basic

    You think?

    It's always a good idea to include her emails to me because she gets to my emails faster than I do.

    Umm...I think I may have found a source of at least SOME of the emails...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    mcinsand, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    There are violations, and then there are violations

    Although the right-leaning groups are screaming loudest, the list of 'targeted' organizations that I have seen seems to be diverse. Let's just say that they were profiled, whether from external pressure or internal prejudices. That would be bad, and I would hope that it would be punishable. After all, innocent until proven guilty.

    HOWEVER, the policies for maintaining e-mails, records, and policies are crystal clear, and no-one is questioning that they were not followed. Given the scope of the IRS responsibilities and activities, breaching these protocols has to be criminal. If it isn't, then I want to know why! If anything, failing to maintain required records, failing to keep those files is worse than the profiling. They started out as innocent until proven guilty, and then they worked their butts off to prove themselves guilty. Whether Ms. Lerner took the fifth should be irrelevant; the lack of records under her responsibility should be a fast ticket to a jail cell!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 12:39pm

    Re: There are violations, and then there are violations

    Are they truly HER responsibility.

    If she has only basic computer skillz they should have one of those fancy I.T. Departments handling these things... in fact I work in one though I damn sure wont call it fancy.

    When I managed an Email system (MS Exchange) we Journaled every message that traversed the system to/from inside/outside 100% to another system for safe keeping IN ADDITION to keeping the server and Production Database of emails backed the fuck up!

    This Bitch ALONG WITH the managers for Messaging on up should be feeling significant HEAT!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    ThatFatMan (profile), Jun 19th, 2014 @ 12:45pm

    IRS?

    Inbox Recycling Service?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Robert Humphreys, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 12:46pm

    If the drive has been removed and trashed, DriveSavers can recover it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    zip, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 1:07pm

    US Gov't targets taxpayers for their dead parents' DECADES-OLD debts

    A few weeks ago, with no notice, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. Grice had no idea that Uncle Sam had seized her money until some days later, when she got a letter saying that her refund had gone to satisfy an old debt to the government — a very old debt.

    When Grice was 4, back in 1960, her father died, leaving her mother with five children to raise. Until the kids turned 18, Sadie Grice got survivor benefits from Social Security to help feed and clothe them.

    Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. After 37 years of silence, four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter.


    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/social-security-treasury-target-hundreds-of-thousand s-of-taxpayers-for-parents-old-debts/2014/04/10/74ac8eae-bf4d-11e3-bcec-b71ee10e9bc3_story.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 1:19pm

    > It is remarkable that Lerner does not say: "Oh no! My hard drive crashed, and the IRS's only copy of two years' worth of my highly important work has been lost!" No: she is concerned about "my lost personal files," because "there were some documents in the files that are irreplaceable." That is a clearly stated and entirely reasonable concern, but it has nothing to do with losing the agency's only record of two years of work.

    Just because someone didn't say something doesn't imply that they believe the opposite. Not saying "the IRS's only copy of two years' worth of work has been lost!" doesn't imply, "I don't care if the IRS files are saved!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 1:36pm

    Re:

    Not saying "the IRS's only copy of two years' worth of work has been lost!" doesn't imply, "I don't care if the IRS files are saved!"
    She had a legal duty to maintain records that could be requested by FOIA, Congressional oversight, etc. She had no specific legal duty to maintain her personal files, however much it would have inconvenienced her to lose their contents. She should have been foremost concerned with compliance with her legal duties, either by recovering the mails from that drive or seeking assistance from IT in preserving some other copy(s). The structure of the mail shows no particular concern for her legal duties. By itself, that is not damning, but given the systemic failure to preserve records, it is telling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 1:40pm

    Re: US Gov't targets taxpayers for their dead parents' DECADES-OLD debts

    Wow. That's unbelievable.

    How is this not an ex-post-facto law? The previous law gave a statute of limitations that passed. Anything retroactive to anything that had passed is unconstitutional.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes, I think this is the correct way to look at it (though it's unclear if there are other emails that talk about saving the non-personal files), and we don't know if her understanding of "personal files" includes all emails (remember, she's not a computer whiz), but it's not remarkable. At most, it's telling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Re: There are violations, and then there are violations

    Nope, she should be held personally liable for each criminal act she performs. And if the IRS are complicit, then everyone involved should be charged with fraud.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    GuyFromV, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 2:30pm

    Time to subpoena any other .gov agency that may have the slightest chance of being the recipient of an email from the IRS during the period in question.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Mikael (profile), Jun 19th, 2014 @ 2:44pm

    No server copies?

    Surely I'm not the only one that read this and thought, "Why did she keep the emails on her computer and not the server?".

    Hell the company I work for still uses Lotus Notes and no one ever deletes any email. I worked with a user that had a 10gb mail file and we have another employee with a 25gb mail file. All of those emails are stored on the server with copies on a backup server and a DR server mirror as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 19th, 2014 @ 3:04pm

    Re: No server copies?

    Yeah, this point was covered well in the comments to an earlier story about this. It's what makes the excuse the purest of bullshit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Padpaw (profile), Jun 19th, 2014 @ 3:12pm

    Banana Republic

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 3:56pm

    Re: There are violations, and then there are violations

    - 100’s of documented cases of the IRS asking illegal questions & improper requests for names of donors if conservative groups requesting 501c3 status had ‘tea party” or “patriot” in their name
    - President Obama went on national TV and stated he was “outraged” by the IRS’ conduct after the IRS “apologized for targeting groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names”
    - The Obama Admin put the onus of the illegal conduct on 2 Cincinnati IRS field agents – Both of whom have stated under oath before Congress that the requests came from Wash DC
    - Obama appointed an official who was in charge of “oversight” and was getting regular reports regarding the status of these conservative groups IRS status
    - Obama donor was put in charge of IRS investigation – Conflict of Interest
    - IRS was colluding with the FEC and other Govt agencies – Illegal
    - IRS was leaking conservative groups info (specifically – Nat Council of Marriage) to left-wing organization ProPublica – Illegal
    - Ben Carson, after being critical of Obamacare at a prayer breakfast w/President Obama on Feb 7, 2013, was Audited by the IRS the next week
    - President Obama stated – “not a smidgen of corruption” at the IRS in the pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly in Feb, even though the FBI’s investigations into the IRS ARE still “on going”

    Of the six investigations of the IRS targeting, numerous people (Jay Carney, Harry Reid, etc) made statements how the IRS has been thoroughly investigated & it was just a political exercise and unnecessary for any more investigations.

    Apparently none of those six investigations were extensive enough to uncover that the IRS did NOT have all outside emails from the person at the center of the targeting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 3:58pm

    Re: Re: US Gov't targets taxpayers for their dead parents' DECADES-OLD debts

    It comes from one of the few countries in the world which taxes non-resident citizens for income earned outside the country. So, not surprising.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 3:59pm

    Re:

    Lois L worked for the FEC prior to the IRS, I'd start there...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 4:15pm

    Duty to Preserve

    She had a legal duty to maintain records that could be requested by FOIA, Congressional oversight, etc. [...] She should have been foremost concerned with compliance with her legal duties, either by recovering the mails from that drive or seeking assistance from IT in preserving some other copy(s). The structure of the mail shows no particular concern for her legal duties. [...]


    This can't be repeated often enough. If any non-government entity were in a similar situation a court would sanction (steep fines at the very least) them for massive disregard towards preservation. I understand the federal bureaucracy is riddle with inept leadership, but the level incompetence on display at the I.R.S. is mind boggling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 5:58pm

    Re: Re: There are violations, and then there are violations

    Yup, it was only conservative groups targeted - if all you listen to is fox news. The truth is very different.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 6:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: There are violations, and then there are violations

    AC is part of the "Look over there, nothing to see here" cover-up crowd who is terrified of the truth.

    USA Today -
    Obama's double asterisks on IRS: Column

    "...As Congress investigates the IRS chicanery, the IRS has responded to a request for emails to and from Lois Lerner, who spearheaded the Tea Party harassment, by saying, basically, that the dog ate its homework. Or, rather, the IRS claims, somewhat dubiously, that "a hard drive crash" on Lerner's computer led to the loss of emails to outside entities "such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, or Democrat offices." You know, the very people she's accused of coordinating her harassment with."

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/06/17/irs-conservative-obama-lerner-investigation-e mails-column/10550507/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    jay, Jun 19th, 2014 @ 8:23pm

    executive assistant

    It says to cc executive assistant. Are the exec assist's emails being subpoenaed?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 20th, 2014 @ 5:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: There are violations, and then there are violations

    Ac is simply asking for honesty. Claiming that only conservative groups were targeted is an incorrect statement at best. Fact is, the only group denied 501 charitable status (during the "IRS scandal" period) was a so called liberal group. So whine all you want about being persecuted, but it is rather childish to say no one else is being treated unfairly.

    Take a close look at the first bullet item in the post the AC was initially responding to, are you claiming that is not a biased statement?

    btw, usatoday? ... really?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    GeeC, Jun 20th, 2014 @ 10:08am

    Re:

    If the drive has been trashed according to government standards, then it cannot be recovered as it has been degaussed and shredded. For some reason, I'm fairly certain that they followed THAT government procedure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    GeeC, Jun 20th, 2014 @ 10:17am

    Re: No server copies?

    MS Exchange really prefers to work only in Inbox sizes of 2GB or less. It can hold ones up to 50GB, but performance is severely diminished. I believe it was also mentioned that they had a data cap that was very small compared to the 50GB max.

    That said, the only ways to handle the inbox size are 1) users keeping the inbox tidy, 2) server/appliance based archival, 3) local archival. Most likely option 3 was taken. When Outlook archives emails, it does so local to that workstation and strips them from the Exchange server completely. The only way to back them up is if that workstation itself is backed up (unlikely) or the archive is copied to a file server that is backed up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Cyberoid (profile), Jun 20th, 2014 @ 11:51am

    Two Sides of the Coin

    Lerner not only apparently targeted some political groups -- others she helped. In both cases, if the allegations are true, Lerner was breaking the law.

    In my whistleblower case now in the United States Tax Court, Docket No. 8447-13W, I allege that Lerner and/or examiners working for her in Cincinnati improperly expedited the granting of tax-exempt, public-charity status for a bogus nonprofit created to collect, launder, and funnel corporate contributions to elect the Republican House majority in 2010.

    Thus, those calling for her head and the restitution of the missing emails or comparable records are hypothetically putting their own heads on the chopping block -- an irony that entertains me (and I hope, the judge in my case), no end.

    As much as I despise the hypocrites Issa and Camp, leading the charge against Lerner (they simply wish to shut the IRS down), I am delighted to see them pursuing with alacrity the case of The Purloined Email. If they succeed in getting the records back, they will make it that much easier for federal authorities to indict them per my allegations. A too rare win-win-win for America!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 20th, 2014 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There are violations, and then there are violations

    Fact: Lois Lerner admitted to targeting conservatives, never mentioned targeting anyone else.

    Washington Post May 10, 2013-
    IRS admits targeting conservatives for tax scrutiny in 2012 election
    “The Internal Revenue Service on Friday apologized for targeting groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, confirming long-standing accusations by some conservatives that their applications for tax-exempt status were being improperly delayed and scrutinized.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/irs-admits-targeting-conservatives-for-t ax-scrutiny-in-2012-election/2013/05/10/3b6a0ada-b987-11e2-92f3-f291801936b8_story.html

    Fact: President Obama went on national TV and stated he was “outraged” by the IRS’ conduct after the IRS “apologized for targeting conservative groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jjDsGr92to

    Both biased AC's are more interested in throwing conservative/liberal in the mix to throw up a smoke screen to hide liberal abuses of the law, instead of embracing the facts of the case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    GEMont (profile), Jun 20th, 2014 @ 3:46pm

    Fools or Villains - an easy choice

    "...are pushing the perception more into the "expected bureaucratic incompetence" area, rather than towards "large-scale conspiracy to destroy evidence."

    Exactly as planned.

    It is far easier to bear the label "incompetent idiots", then to be labelled "crooked assholes", especially as the first one does not also suggest the need for a criminal investigation, possibly resulting in criminal charges.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 20th, 2014 @ 6:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There are violations, and then there are violations

    You seemed to have ignored the point being made and simply added to your list of accusations.

    Care to address the issue? Are there any groups given preferential treatment by the IRS over other groups that it brow beats? I think not, and this is based upon a wide breadth of sources I have read over the past many months in which there have been all sorts of attempts to build a mountain out of a stinkin pile of shit.

    I am not the one who brought a political label into this discussion. I pointed out that a prior post was biased in this regard.

    Skepticism seems to be a trait that is lacking in society today as we become more stratified politically. People tend to have confirmation bias much more than before. This is not good for society, but apparently it is the game plan of those who think they are in control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2014 @ 2:18am

    You are reading it wrong

    "...but there were some documents in the files that are irreplaceable."

    Some of her personal files weren't backed up and she can't replace them. Everything else has/had a copy elsewhere.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    GEMont (profile), Jun 21st, 2014 @ 12:02pm

    Re: You are reading it wrong

    Well yeah. Of course. Private records would NOT be backed up. But all other records would be, including emails, and especially emails detailing investigations into tax evasion situations.

    After all, this is the IRS.

    They depend on records in order to charge Americans for unpaid taxes years after the fact because it includes interest added every year on the balance owed.

    Records are a way of life for the IRS.

    To even consider for a moment that they did not have backups of every damn document ever produced or collected, running back decades, is just plain silly.

    This is all just Federal Agency Policy these days, when dealing with the (Adversary) Public.

    Obfuscate, Lie and Bury the Evidence, whenever possible.
    ---

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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