On Thursday CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed IRS chief John Koskinen, who recently flubbed his way through a couple of hours of Congressional testimony. At one point Blitzer wondered why private companies and individuals had a much higher threshold of responsibility when it came to record keeping than the IRS does. It would seem that the IRS should hold itself to the same level of responsibility that they require of others who are forced to file taxes.
BLITZER: The — here’s what a lot of people have pointed out to us. Sarbanes-Oxley — you’re familiar with that law — private companies, they have to retain email data for five years. You’re familiar with that, right?
KOSKINEN: I’m familiar with Sarbanes. I didn’t know that particular…
BLITZER: It’s a criminal penalty if they don’t. So why wouldn’t — if public companies have to do that, why wouldn’t the IRS have to retain important emails for at least five years, as opposed to six months, because they’ve been recycling their email, their hard drives every six months or so. That sounds suspicious.
KOSKINEN: I — the IRS process, though, is every important official record gets — is supposed to be printed out. We have 2,000 employees trained to make sure that happens. So the official records of the IRS are printed out and are saved in hard copy and now preserved. The emails, all emails are not official records. So at this point, the policy for the IRS is to in fact print them out. But that’s an antiquated program and we’re looking at trying to modernize it.
BLITZER: I got a ton of questions. I told my Twitter followers I was going to be interviewing you today, and I asked for some suggested questions. I got a variation of this one by a lot of folks. This one from T.G. Parker: “Why shouldn’t taxpayers use the crashed hard drive excuse when undergoing an IRS audit?”
KOSKINEN: A number of them already have done that, and the question has been is there a dual standard? And as I’ve said, the IRS has 24,000 Lois Lerner emails from this period. We, historically, if a taxpayer has lost electronic records, have said if you have other indications and evidence of what went on, we’ll take that from you. It’s if you lose a document it doesn’t mean you lose the argument. We actually work with taxpayers to say we’ll look at other evidence, like the 24,000 emails. And if we can find any evidence to support your case — and, in fact, if the circumstances support your case, we’ll support you and you won’t have any problems.