EPIC v. IRS II (Trump Offers-in-Compromise)

Top News

  • EPIC Obtains Comey's Memos Detailing Conversations with Trump: Through a Freedom of Information Act request, EPIC obtained declassified memorandums from former FBI Director James Comey detailing his conversations with President Trump from January to April 2017. The conversations include President Trump asking about the possibility of imprisoning journalists, dropping the investigation of former advisor Michael Flynn, and the need to "lift the cloud" of the Russia investigation. In early 2017, EPIC launched the Project on Democracy and Cybersecurity. EPIC is currently pursuing several FOIA cases concerning Russian interference with the 2016 election including: EPIC v. ODNI (Russian hacking), EPIC v. IRS (release of Trump's tax returns), and EPIC v. DHS (election cybersecurity). (May. 15, 2018)
  • EPIC Tells Senate Finance Committee: Support Release of Trump Tax Records: In advance of a hearing regarding challenges facing the IRS, EPIC sent a statement to the Senate Finance Committee urging the release of President Trump's tax returns. EPIC v. IRS is one of several FOIA cases EPIC is pursuing concerning Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. EPIC recently filed the opening brief in the case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. EPIC told the court that the IRS has the authority to disclose the President's returns to correct numerous misstatements of fact concerning financial ties to Russia. For example, President Trump tweeted that "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING"--a claim "plainly contradicted by his own attorneys, family members, and business partners." As EPIC told the Court, "there has never been a more compelling FOIA request presented to the IRS." (Apr. 12, 2018)
  • More top news »
  • D.C. Circuit Sets Schedule for EPIC Case to Obtain Trump Tax Returns » (Dec. 19, 2017)
    The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has set a schedule in EPIC’s case to obtain President Trump’s tax returns. EPIC previously argued that the IRS has the authority to release the records to correct numerous misstatements of fact concerning financial ties to Russia, such as President Trump’s tweet "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING." The IRS recently admitted to EPIC that it has used this authority at least 10 times in one year. The schedule for the appeal was announced the same week that Congress considers sweeping tax legislation, but Congress and the public remain in the dark about the consequences of the legislation on the President’s personal finances. According to CNN, 73% of Americans favor release of the President’s tax returns. EPIC v. IRS is one of several FOIA cases concerning Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, including EPIC v. ODNI (scope of Russian interference), EPIC v. FBI (response to Russian cyber attack), and EPIC v. DHS (election cybersecurity). EPIC’s opening brief in EPIC v. IRS is due January 24, 2018.
  • Pew Survey Examines "Future of Truth and Misinformation Online" » (Oct. 20, 2017)
    The Pew Research Center released a report on how to address the spread of digital misinformation in the coming decade. The report's respondents were evenly divided on whether technological advances in the coming decade will fix the problem of misinformation, or only compound it. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg told Pew, "The problem with online news is structural: There are too few gatekeepers, and the internet business model does not sustain quality journalism. The reason is simply that advertising revenue has been untethered from news production." The prevalence of "fake news" was one of the most significant issues in the 2016 presidential election. EPIC's Democracy and Cybersecurity Project seeks to restore integrity in democratic elections. EPIC is also pursuing details of the Russian election interference in FOIA cases against the FBI, the Office of Director in National Intelligence, and the IRS. This week several senators introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen disclosure requirements for online political ads.
  • EPIC, Open Government Groups Call for Release of Trump's Tax Returns » (Oct. 11, 2017)
    EPIC and a coalition of leading open government organizations have urged the Joint Committee on Taxation and the IRS Commissioner to release Donald Trump's tax returns to correct numerous misstatements of fact concerning the President's financial ties to Russia, such as "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING." These statements have been directly contradicted by his attorneys, members of his family, and various news reports. The IRS Commissioner, with the approval of the Joint Committee on Taxation, is authorized to release tax records to "correct misstatements of fact," and the agency exercised the authority ten times in one year. EPIC is also pursuing a lawsuit against the IRS after the agency failed to release Trump's tax records in response to a FOIA request. EPIC v. IRS is now pending before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • 2018 Intelligence Authorization Reflects Concerns About Russian Hacking » (Aug. 25, 2017)
    In the proposed intelligence reauthorization for 2018, the Senate has included provisions reflecting widespread concern about the Russian interference in the 2016 election. Among other requirements, S. 1761 mandates a report to Congress detailing the past cyber attacks on election infrastructure and the risk of future attacks, as well as a report assessing the intelligence community response to the attacks. The bill also gives the intelligence community 90 days to develop a strategy to counter the threat of future Russian cyber attacks. And the bill requires the Director of National Intelligence to submit to Congress a report assessing the "threat of Russian money laundering to the United States." EPIC raised similar concerns in a series of leading open government cases concerning the Russian interference. In EPIC v. FBI, EPIC is seeking information about the FBI's response to the attacks and has obtained the FBI Notification Procedures that should have been followed after a cyber attack. In EPIC v. ODNI, EPIC is seeking the release of the complete intelligence report on the scope of the Russian attack. And in EPIC v. IRS, EPIC is seeking to obtain the public release of Donald Trump’s tax returns.
  • EPIC v. IRS: District Court Rules IRS May Withhold Trump Tax Records » (Aug. 18, 2017)
    A federal court in Washington, DC has ruled that the IRS may withhold President Trump's tax records sought by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC had argued that the IRS has the authority to release the records to correct numerous misstatements of fact concerning the President's financial ties to Russia. The President, for example, tweeted: "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!" However, the Court ruled that “until President Trump or Congress authorizes release of the tax returns, EPIC (and the rest of the American public) will remain in the dark." EPIC v. IRS is one of three leading open government cases concerning Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election. In EPIC v. ODNI, EPIC is seeking the release of the complete report on the scope of the attack. In EPIC v. FBI, EPIC is seeking information about the FBI’s response to the attack. EPIC will continue to pursue the release of President’s Trump’s tax records and related evidence of financial relations with the Russian government.
  • Report Shows Increase in Open Government Lawsuits, EPIC Among Nation's Leading FOIA Litigators » (Jul. 27, 2017)
    A new report from the FOIA Project shows a "dramatic rise" in the number Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by nonprofit and advocacy groups. According to TRAC, these organizations now account for more FOIA suits than "any other single class." EPIC was the fifth most frequent litigator among nonprofit and advocacy groups nationwide. In 2017, EPIC has filed five FOIA lawsuits. EPIC is currently litigating EPIC v. ODNI, EPIC v. FBI, and EPIC v. IRS, three of the leading open government cases concerning Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election. Last week, EPIC filed a new FOIA lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection for information about the agency's deployment of a biometric entry/exit tracking system, including at US airports. For more information about EPIC's latest open government work, visit: https://epic.org/open_gov/.
  • EPIC Obtains Privacy Procedures for IRS Private Debt Collection » (Jul. 10, 2017)
    As the result of a Freedom of Information Act request to the IRS, EPIC has obtained hundreds of documents detailing procedures that bind private debt collectors dealing with U.S. taxpayers. Following a Congressional mandate, the IRS outsourced debt collection for some U.S. taxpayers to private debt collection agencies. Transfer of personal and financial data to private entities raises data security and privacy concerns, and also makes scams and threatening phone collection tactics easier to perpetrate. A group of U.S. senators has already accused one of the four companies of engaging in abusive and illegal phone contacts. The documents obtained by EPIC show how the IRS monitors the companies and the procedures companies must follow when contacting taxpayers. EPIC also obtained the privacy and data security requirements imposed on the debt collectors, details of how they must handle complaints, and the IRS contracts for all four companies. In FOIA lawsuit EPIC v. IRS, EPIC is also seeking therelease of President Trump's Tax records from the agency.
  • EPIC v. ODNI: Intelligence Agency Opposes Release of Report on Russian Hacking » (Jun. 27, 2017)
    In a motion filed in EPIC v. ODNI, the government contends that it is not obligated to review a critical government report for even partial release under the Freedom of Information Act. EPIC filed the lawsuit for the release of the complete report on the Russian interference with the 2016 election after the ODNI published a limited, declassified version. "The ODNI should release the complete report to EPIC so that the public and the Congress can understand the full extent of the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election," EPIC President Marc Rotenberg told POLITICO. "It is already clear that government secrecy is frustrating meaningful oversight. The FBI, for example, will not even identify the states that were targeted by Russia." EPIC will challenge the agency's response as the litigation continues in federal district court in Washington, DC. EPIC v. ODNI is one of several FOIA suites EPIC is pursuing under the new EPIC Democracy and Cybersecurity Project focused on preserving democratic institutions. In EPIC v. IRS EPIC seeks release of President Trump's Tax records. In EPIC v. FBI, EPIC has already obtained the Bureau's procedures for notifying organizations that are the target of a cyber attack.
  • EPIC Pursues Release of Trump Tax Returns in IRS FOIA Case » (Jun. 27, 2017)
    EPIC filed a court brief Monday opposing an attempt by the Internal Revenue Service to dismiss EPIC's FOIA lawsuit for President Trump's tax returns. EPIC filed the suit for the tax records on April 15 after the IRS refused to process EPIC's FOIA Request for the President's returns. The IRS responded by asking the court to dismiss the case, insisting that the agency did not have to process EPIC's request because the President's consent had not been obtained. As EPIC told the court on Monday, the IRS focused on the wrong law, ignoring a provision that gives EPIC a right to access the President's tax records without consent. EPIC explained that the agency's argument "is irrelevant to the processing of this particular FOIA request." EPIC v. IRS is one of three leading open government cases concerning Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election. In EPIC v. ODNI, EPIC is seeking the release of the complete report on the scope of the attack. In EPIC v. FBI, EPIC is seeking information about the FBI’s response to the attack.
  • IRS Opposes EPIC's FOIA Suit for Trump Tax Returns » (Jun. 13, 2017)
    The Internal Revenue Service has asked a court to dismiss EPIC's FOIA lawsuit for President Donald Trump's tax records. EPIC filed the suit on April 15 after the IRS refused to consider a FOIA request for the President's returns. As EPIC told the court, "There has never been a more compelling FOIA request presented to the IRS." EPIC also explained that IRS Commissioner is empowered to release tax returns to "correct misstatements of fact" and to ensure the "integrity and fairness" of the tax system. In yesterday's filing, the IRS conceded that "the FOIA provides an adequate remedy in this case" but insisted that the agency did not have to process EPIC's request or release any records.
  • Leaked Document Details Russian Interference Efforts in 2016 Election » (Jun. 6, 2017)
    A National Security Agency document leaked to The Intercept details Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election via cyber attacks. The document concludes that the attacks were carried out by Russian military intelligence and involved spear-phishing emails and a cyber attack on a private manufacturer of devices that maintain and verify the voter rolls. EPIC Is currently litigating EPIC v. ODNI, EPIC v. FBI, and EPIC v. IRS, three of the leading open government cases concerning Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • The FOIA Project Provides 2017 FOIA Report » (May. 31, 2017)
    A new report from The FOIA Project tracks many of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by media organizations and journalists in 2017. According to TRAC, forty-five new FOIA lawsuits were filed by thirty-nine news organizations and reporters. The New York Times, with six FOIA suits, filed suit most frequently. In second place is EPIC, which has already filed four FOIA lawsuits in 2017, including a suite of lawsuits under the new EPIC Democracy and Cybersecurity Project focused on preserving democratic institutions. In EPIC v. ODNI EPIC seeks public release of the January 2017 report of the intelligence community on Russian hacking, and in EPIC v. IRS EPIC seeks release of President Trump's Tax records. In EPIC v. FBI, EPIC has already obtained the Bureau's procedures for notifying organizations that are the target of a cyber attack. EPIC has asked Congress to determine whether the FBI did enough to notify US political organizations about Russian cyber attacks during he 2016 Presidential election.
  • EPIC to House Committee: IRS Must Release Trump Tax Records » (May. 22, 2017)
    In advance of an IRS Oversight hearing, EPIC has sent a statement to the House Appropriations Committee regarding EPIC v. IRS, the case in which EPIC is seeking release of President Trump's tax records. According to EPIC, "There has never been a more compelling FOIA request presented to the IRS." In the request to the IRS, EPIC explained that the IRS Commissioner may release tax returns to "correct misstatements of fact" and to ensure the "integrity and fairness" of the tax system. EPIC is currently pursuing several high level FOIA cases, including EPIC v. FBI and EPIC v. ODNI, to determine the scope of Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • EPIC v. ODNI: EPIC Anticipates Release of Report on Russian Hacking » (May. 2, 2017)
    In a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit EPIC v. ODNI, EPIC anticipates the May 3 release of the Complete Assessment of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In January 2017, the Director of National Intelligence released a limited, declassified version report about the "multi-pronged attack" on democratic institutions. EPIC filed a FOIA suit for public release of the Complete Assessment of Russian interference. As EPIC explained in an op-ed in The Hill and statements to Congress, the "public has a right to know the details when a foreign government attempts to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election." In accordance with the briefing schedule in the case, the ODNI must release all non-exempt portions of the Complete Assessment on May 3, 2017 to EPIC. EPIC is also pursuing two related FOIA cases as part of the Democracy and Cybersecurity Project. In EPIC v. FBI, EPIC is seeking records concerning the FBI's investigation of Russian interference. In EPIC v. IRS, EPIC is seeking release of President Trump’s Tax records.
  • EPIC Sues IRS for Release of Trump's Tax Records » (Apr. 15, 2017)
    Today EPIC filed a FOIA lawsuit against the IRS after the agency failed to release Donald J. Trump’s tax records. According to EPIC, "There has never been a more compelling FOIA request presented to the IRS.” In the request to the IRS, EPIC explained that the IRS Commissioner may release tax returns to "correct misstatements of fact" and to ensure the “integrity and fairness" of the tax system. EPIC cited an earlier statement of Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), a member of the Joint Committee on Taxation, in support of the release. The case is captioned EPIC v. IRS, 17-670 (D.D.C. filed Apr. 15, 2017). For more information, see the Press Release about EPIC v. IRS. EPIC is currently pursuing several high level FOIA cases, including EPIC v. FBI and EPIC v. ODNI, to determine the scope of Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election.

Background

If the Freedom of Information Act means anything, it means that the American public has the right to know whether records exist in a federal agency which reveal that the U.S. president has financial dealings with a foreign adversary. With that in mind, EPIC has filed a FOIA request and lawsuit to compel the Internal Revenue Service to release certain tax records pertaining to President Donald J. Trump and more than 300 associated business entities. Specifically, EPIC has requested all "offers-in-compromise" used to satisfy a tax debt owed by President Trump or one of his businesses. This is the second FOIA request and lawsuit, following EPIC v. IRS I, that EPIC has brought concerning the President's tax records.

An offer-in-compromise is "an agreement between a taxpayer and the Internal Revenue Service that settles a taxpayer's tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed." Under section 6103(k)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code, taxpayer "return information shall be disclosed to members of the general public to the extent necessary to permit inspection of any accepted offer-in-compromise[.]" The records EPIC has requested—accepted offers-in-compromise and related return information pertaining to the President—are therefore public as a matter of law.

EPIC filed its FOIA request on February 5, 2018. After the IRS failed to issue a final determination on EPIC's request for more than two months, EPIC filed suit against the agency on April 17, 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Section 6103(k)(1)

Section 6103(k)(1) is one of several provisions from the Tax Reform Act of 1976 through which Congress has determined that certain "returns or return information should be public as a matter of policy[.]" According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration:

The reason OICs [offers-in-compromise] are available for public inspection goes back several decades. In the early 1950s, an IRS employee was indicted for taking bribes from taxpayers seeking to compromise their outstanding tax liabilities. A congressional investigation revealed that the IRS had accepted offers with generous terms from racketeers and politically connected individuals. In response to these scandals, on August 20, 1952, President Truman issued Executive Order 10386 directing the IRS to open for public inspection any accepted OIC. The Internal Revenue Code permits public inspection and copying of accepted OIC case files.

As one tax official wrote of § 6103(k)(1), "Presumably, the public policy behind the federal exemption from confidentiality of return information is a Congressional belief that the compromise of tax liabilities is affected with significant public interest, to the extent that all taxpayers are affected by such a compromise." Disclosure of offer-in-compromise information is also mandated by Exec. Order No. 10,386, which separately requires that "income, excess profits, declared value excess profits, capital stock, estate or gift tax returns for any taxable" be open "to the extent necessary to permit the inspection of any accepted offer in compromise").

The IRS, in furtherance of § 6103(k)(1), has set up two separate mechanisms for the public to obtain offers-in-compromise and the relevant return information. First, for a year after a given taxpayer's offer-in-compromise is accepted by the IRS, the taxpayer's Form 7249 ("Offer Acceptance Report") and associated "sanitized account transcript" is made available for public inspection at the geographically corresponding IRS field office. Taxpayers are permitted to copy and retain these documents; however, the "inspection file" at each IRS office only contains records specific to that IRS region, and only records that are a year or less old. Second, the Internal Revenue Manual states that requests for offers-in-compromise and associated return information may be made in pursuant to the FOIA.

EPIC’s FOIA Request

On February 5, 2018, EPIC submitted a FOIA request to the Internal Revenue Service seeking:

1. All accepted offers-in-compromise relating to any past or present tax liability of Donald John Trump, the current President of the United States.

2. All other "return information . . . necessary to permit inspection of [the] accepted offer[s]-in-compromise" described in Category 1 of this request. Records responsive to Category 2 include, but are not limited to, "income, excess profits, declared value excess profits, capital stock, and estate or gift tax returns for any taxable year," as applicable.

EPIC also submitted an appendix (“Appendix A”) of several hundred business entities in which the President is, or has been, involved. With respect to these entities, EPIC sought:

3. All accepted offers-in-compromise relating to any past or present tax liability of any entity identified in Appendix A of this request.

4. All other "return information . . . necessary to permit inspection of [the] accepted offer[s]-in-compromise" described in Category 3 of this request. Records responsive to Category 4 include, but are not limited to, "income, excess profits, declared value excess profits, capital stock, and estate or gift tax returns for any taxable year," as applicable.

On February 8, 2018, the IRS responded to EPIC by letter, agreed to expeditiously process EPIC’s request, and committed to searching for responsive records.

On April 17, 2018—after the IRS had unlawfully failed to make a final determination on EPIC’s request for fifty working days—EPIC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. On June 15, 2018, the IRS moved to dismiss EPIC’s suit and attempted to retroactively reverse its agreement to process EPIC’s request.

EPIC’s Interest

There is widespread concern that the President’s private financial interests may conflict with the national interests of the United States and that Mr. Trump may have entered into business relations with the Russian government that aided his presidential campaign. There is simply no way to resolve these questions without the release of the President’s tax records. The public has the right to know.

In addition to this case, EPIC has brought several other Freedom of Information Act lawsuits regarding Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election: EPIC v. IRS I (concerning release of the President’s tax returns under § 6103(k)(3)), EPIC v. FBI (concerning a request for records related to the hack of the DCCC, DNC, and RNC systems), and EPIC v. ODNI (concerning a request for the full report on "Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections").

Legal Documents

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 17-670)

FOIA Documents

  • FOIA Request (February 5, 2018)
  • IRS First Response (February 8, 2018)
  • IRS Second Response (March 6, 2018)
  • IRS Third Response (March 28, 2018)
  • IRS Post-Litigation Letter (April 25, 2018)
  • News

    Share this page:

    Support EPIC

    EPIC relies on support from individual donors to pursue our work.

    Defend Privacy. Support EPIC.