A contractor working for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been indicted for leaking tax return information from a senior government official and wealthy taxpayers to two news organizations. The indictment, which was unsealed in federal court in Washington on Friday, accuses Charles Edward Littlejohn of stealing tax returns and other information from a government official referred to as “Public Official A” and thousands of wealthy individuals. The indictment does not disclose the names of the official, taxpayers, or news organizations, but it has been revealed that the official is former President Donald J. Trump, and the news organizations are The New York Times and ProPublica.
According to the indictment, Littlejohn, who worked as a contractor for the IRS from 2017 to 2021, accessed tax information dating back more than 15 years between 2018 and 2020. He then provided this information to the news organizations. The indictment mentions that both news organizations published numerous articles based on the tax information obtained from Littlejohn.
The company that employed Littlejohn has not been named, and it remains unclear why a contractor had access to sensitive taxpayer information that should be protected by legal and procedural safeguards. Littlejohn is charged with one count of unauthorized disclosure of tax returns and return information, and if convicted, he could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The IRS declined to comment on the specifics of the case but stated that it has been using its new funding to enhance the protection of taxpayer data and implement additional safeguards against unauthorized access and disclosure of sensitive information.
The leaks of tax information have sparked controversy and renewed calls for a wealth tax to prevent billionaires from reducing their tax burdens through creative financial strategies. Republicans have criticized the leaks, believing that they were intended to support the Biden administration’s efforts to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
The slow progress of the investigation has put the IRS and the Biden administration on the defensive, as they have been unable to provide information on how such sensitive data could have been leaked. A report from the Government Accountability Office highlighted problems with how the IRS handles taxpayer data and noted that a third of its contractors had not completed training on protecting taxpayer records.
Overall, the indictment of the IRS contractor for leaking tax return information from a government official and wealthy taxpayers has raised concerns about the protection of taxpayer data and the need for stronger safeguards.