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TIGTA Report: Comey and McCabe Not Specifically Targeted for Audits

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Dec 2, 2022

Former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe were not specifically targeted for a rare and intrusive audit by the IRS, the Treasury Inspector for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has determined.

TIGTA initiated an audit as the result of a July 6 New York Times story reporting that each man was selected for a National Research Program (NRP) review, a rare, random and intensive audit to which very few tax filers are subjected. Comey’s audit was for tax year 2017 and McCabe’s was for tax year 2019.

According to its report, TIGTA found that "the IRS’s Research Applied Analytics and Statistics (RAAS) organization selected samples of more than 10,900 tax returns for NRP audits." TIGTA's assessment of "the original sample selection process concluded that the IRS randomly selected TYs 2017 and 2019 tax returns for NRP audits. Specifically, TIGTA found that RAAS determined and provided key decisions and information related to the tax return selection processes to the contractor prior to selecting tax returns. Additionally, TIGTA found that computer programs: 1) categorized returns in the correct strata; 2) correctly selected tax returns for audit based on criteria for inclusion in the sample selection file; and 3) did not include malicious code that would force the selection of taxpayers for an NRP audit. TIGTA confirmed that the processes and computer programs worked as designed, which reduces the ability to select specific taxpayers for an NRP audit."

TIGTA also reported that in July, "IRS officials requested that a contractor, who was not involved with the TYs 2017 and 2019 sample selections, replicate the process. Specifically, the contractor replicated each week’s original sample selection file through April 2018 and July 2020 for TYs 2017 and 2019, respectively. Once replicated, RAAS officials and the contractor performed a return-by-return comparison between the replicated files and the original sample selection files to verify the files matched. They concluded that the tax returns in the original samples were the same tax returns selected when the process was replicated using the respective seed numbers."

Yet while TIGTA found no misconduct, it did report anomalies. TIGTA  found that "due to resource constraints, RAAS reduced the original samples of more than 10,900 returns to 4,000 tax returns for both TYs 2017 and 2019, hereafter referred to as the subsamples. The inability of IRS management to timely forecast resource requirements resulted in RAAS deviating from the established return sample selection process when the subsamples were selected. Once the IRS decided to subsample returns from the original population, RAAS officials did not document the new seed numbers prior to initiating subsampling. Because the seed numbers were not selected independently and documented prior to initiating subsampling, there is a risk that the seed numbers used could have ensured that specific taxpayers from the original sample remained in the subsamples.” TIGTA concluded, "Although we did not identify misconduct during our review, TIGTA is taking additional steps to assess the process used to select the seed numbers."

Neither Comey nor McCabe was named in the report, due to taxpayer privacy rules.

The inspector general has referred the matter to its office of investigations, the New York Times reported.

Last month, the Times reported that former President Donald Trump repeatedly told his chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, that “we ought to investigate” and “get the  IRS on” Comey and McCabe. The Times also reported that Trump wanted the IRS and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate others, such as former CIA Director John Brennan, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Those revelations prompted U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.), chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight,  to write to Attorney General Merrick Garland that “We now have yet more evidence that Donald Trump sought to weaponize the IRS to target his perceived political enemies. This is a major scandal.”

Separately, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), chair of Ways and Means, wrote to IRS Acting Commissioner Douglas O’Donnell, requesting that he “provide a report on whether each of these individuals has been selected for an examination, audit, or other compliance initiative at any time from 2017-2022.” The Times reported that Neal said in a statement that the recent TIGTA report had assuaged “some concerns” about the possibility that the audits were politically motivated. But he also said that he was still concerned about the statements that Kelly made to the Times about Trump seeking to use the IRS to investigate Comey and McCabe.