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.
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