A group of Senate Republicans have called on President Barack Obama to turn over all communications that he and his aides have had with the Internal Revenue Service since 2010 to confirm whether the agency shared private taxpayer information with White House political operatives, according to The Washington Times
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and all 13 other Republicans on the committee sent a letter Thursday to the president with the aim of finding out if White House aides broke the law by acquiring or sharing private tax information.
"We have an obligation to conduct oversight of the federal government's administration of our tax laws," the lawmakers wrote, according to the Times.
"As part of this oversight, we are seeking to determine the degree to and manner in which the Internal Revenue Service shares taxpayer information with the Executive Office of the President."
The lawmakers have requested an answer by Feb. 20, according to the Times.
The Republicans said they tried to get the information from the agency itself, but were told it was "unable to provide a full accounting of its employees' communications with the White House."
The White House did not respond to a request for comment, according to the Times.
The IRS is prohibited from sharing confidential taxpayer information with outsiders, and the agency continues to be under investigation for allegedly targeting conservative groups for heightened scrutiny.
Several investigations are ongoing in the House, and while an investigation during the Democratic-controlled Senate was slow, the advent of the new Republican majority looks set to expedite the matter.
Outside groups already have tried to get a look at communications between the White House and the IRS but have been largely unsuccessful, the Times said.
Specifically, Cause of Action, an interest group, has gone to court to try to force the agency's inspector general to produce documents stemming from its investigation into White House-IRS communications, but the inspector general has refused, saying it would violate the privacy of taxpayers involved.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee wrote to the IRS calling on the agency to cut wasteful spending and use the savings to enable the agency to be more responsive to taxpayer calls this year.
The agency has previously blamed budget cuts for a dramatic decrease in its ability to answer calls from taxpayers during tax season. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said it could be "miserable" for taxpayers who might see their refunds delayed by a week or more, the Times reported.
The lawmakers are proposing that the agency find new funds by cutting the levels of salaries paid to employees who conduct union business on official time, cancel bonuses, and half efforts to create new regulations surrounding the political activity of nonprofit groups.
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