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Hunter Biden sues IRS over tax disclosures

Hunter Biden with father Joe and stepmother Jill_Wikipedia Commons2
Hunter Biden hugging his father Joe and stepmother Jill after the elder Biden was sworn in as President of the United States on Jan. 20, 2021. (Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the 10 guarantees in the Internal Revenue Service's Taxpayer Bill of Rights is the right to privacy.

Hunter Biden says the tax agency failed to follow its rule, and has filed a federal lawsuit against the IRS alleging that it illegally disclosed information about his taxes. 

The core of Biden's legal action is the public testimony of two IRS agents. The self-proclaimed whistleblowers, who aren't named as parties in the lawsuit, wrongly shared Biden's tax information, according to the suit filed today in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court.

In addition to the "unlawful disclosure" of Biden's tax return data, the suit alleges that the IRS also willfully and intentionally failed to establish appropriate administrative, technical, and/or physical safeguards of its records system to "insure the security and confidentiality of Mr. Biden's confidential tax return information in violation of the Privacy Act."

Biden responsibilities and rights: The lawsuit comes just days after Biden, son of President Joe Biden, was indicted on federal firearms charges. His earlier plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice on misdemeanor tax payment charges fell apart this summer.

While special attention is paid to the younger Biden because of his father's political status, the legal action argues that he also is due all rights and protections afforded U.S. citizens.

"He has all the same responsibilities as any other American citizen, and the IRS can and should make certain that he abides by those responsibilities," notes the suit, filed by attorneys Abbe Lowell and Christopher Man, of the Washington, D.C., law firm Winston and Strawn.

"Similarly, Mr. Biden has no fewer or lesser rights than any other American citizen, and no government agency or government agent has free reign to violate his rights simply because of who he is. Yet the IRS and its agents have conducted themselves under a presumption that the rights that apply to every other American citizen do not apply to Mr. Biden," continued the lawyers.

Smear campaign alleged: Biden cooperated fully with the IRS investigation, the filing says, "with the expectation and understanding that the IRS was committed to compliance with its legal obligations to safeguard and protect his personal information from unauthorized disclosure under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code as well as the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a."

That, they contend, is not the case.

"Rather, IRS agents have targeted and sought to embarrass Mr. Biden via public statements to the media in which they and their representatives disclosed confidential information about a private citizen’s tax matters," according to the filing.

The agents to whom the suit refers, and names in the filing, are Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler. Biden's lawsuit contends that the pair "and their attorneys raised the stakes to unprecedented levels with their numerous public appearances and statements that blatantly violated" federal tax and privacy laws.

Whistleblowers key, but not official suit targets: Again, while the filing accuses the two IRS agents of "engaging in a campaign to publicly smear" the president's son, neither is named as respondents in the filing.

It does, however, challenge their claim of being whistleblowers.

"These agents' putative 'whistleblower' status cannot and does not shield them from their wrongful conduct in making unauthorized public disclosures that are not permitted by the whistleblower process," says the lawsuit. "In fact, a 'whistleblower' is supposed to uncover government misconduct, not the details of that employee's opinion about the alleged wrongdoing of a private person."

Biden is seeking to force the end of public statements about his taxes, along with damages of $1,000 for every unauthorized disclosure of Biden's tax information.

Tumbling tax privacy: Check out my Tumbling Taxes post on taxpayer privacy. It includes a Taxpayer Advocate Service video on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

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