Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials have enough time to purchase and use a controversial piece of spy equipment, but not enough to collect $385 billion in unpaid taxes.
That’s what Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said Tuesday during a House Task Force on Executive Overreach hearing, criticizing the IRS for purchasing cell tower-mimicking Stingray equipment that can track cell phone locations.
The federal deficit in fiscal year 2015 was $486 billion. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) gave the IRS 112 recommendations for capturing more of the $385 billion now going uncollected, but the IRS has only completed 62.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted in December his agency purchased and used Stingray technology to track 37 phones in 11 grand jury investigations. The IRS had one Stingray device last year, but was in the process of purchasing another, Koskinen said. The technology mimics a cell tower to force nearby phones onto its network instead of the carrier’s network, allowing the phones’ locations to be tracked. Some of the Stingray devices can also record calls.
“So the very agency that has a $385 billion tax gap can’t even do half of the recommendations GAO says you should do to accomplish your fundamental mission, [but] has time to target people for exercising their First Amendment liberties,” Jordan said during the hearing.
Jordan urged the IRS to do its job.
“This is the fundamental mission of the Internal Revenue Service, is actually to collect the tax revenue due the federal treasury,” Jordan said. “That is what their job is and they are failing to the tune of $385 billion a year.”
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