A federal judge upheld a 1976 ruling and ordered the Internal Revenue Service to release detailed statistics on how the agency enforces the nation's tax laws to Susan Long, a Syracuse University professor and co-director of the non profit research group, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
Long filed a motion in January, saying that after nearly 30 years, the IRS had stopped disclosing information on its audit, collection and other enforcement activities in mid-2004.
Judge Marsha Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington said that the 1976 case (originally brought by Long when she was a student studying for her doctorate) still remains enforceable, and said that the IRS's claims that producing the data would be burdensome were unsupported. The court also rejected the IRS's argument that producing statistical data would violate a statute prohibiting public release of tax return information about individual taxpayers, because there was no evidence that the statistics could be used to identify any taxpayer.
Pechman ordered production of the requested reports within 14 days, which, TRAC noted in a statement, places the IRS under the same compliance deadline (April 17) that the rest of the nation faces for tax returns.
The judge also awarded attorney fees to Long.
The IRS has not yet released a statement on the ruling, though published reports said that the agency will review the court's order in the following days before determining what its next step will be.TRAC's reports are made available to the public on the group's Web site, http://trac.syr.edu .
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