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Stacking ‘Em Deep: IRS Struggles to Respond to FOIA Requests

By Anthony P. Daddino on October 21, 2022
Still waiting on the IRS to respond to your FOIA request? Well, according to a recent Government update, you may be waiting a while longer.

As background, the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, provides any person the right to request access to federal agency records. As a matter of routine, I file FOIA requests with the IRS following each and every examination. Who doesn’t want to take a peek at the wizard behind the curtain? Besides, I am often rewarded for my curiosity – with internal emails and other documentation that reveal irregularities, inconsistencies, or even biases in the way the IRS handled the audit, providing fodder for my defenses against the IRS’ proposed adjustments against my client. And sometimes (although less often), I will learn tidbits about how or why the IRS audited my client.

Well, I didn’t need someone at the Government to tell me that the IRS is ruining my FOIA fun. But they did anyway. According to data from FOIA.gov, the IRS is way, way behind in processing FOIA requests:
  • Whereas the IRS had backlogged 369 FOIA requests in fiscal year 2019, that number rose to 831 in fiscal year 2021 and to 1,135 by the third quarter of fiscal year 2022. [Note: The IRS is required by statute to respond to a FOIA request within 20 days, and a request pending after 20 days is considered backlogged.]
  • The IRS experienced this rise in backlogged requests despite receiving 5% fewer FOIA requests overall.
The IRS maintains that requests for records are taking longer due to COVID. The IRS initially, and understandably, had difficulty processing FOIA requests during the COVID pandemic, as IRS personnel had limited (or no) access to IRS offices where many responsive documents were stored. But today in October 2022, with IRS offices fully reopened as of June, the COVID explanation is a bit overused and stale. The reality is that the IRS refuses to prioritize the backlogged requests, taking an “I’ll get to it when I get to it” approach which deprives taxpayers of timely transparency to which they are legally entitled, as well as deprives me of my fun.

If you have any questions about this Blog post or any IRS or tax-related matter, feel free to contact me directly at (214) 749-2464 or adaddino@meadowscollier.com.