Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig said Tuesday that federal officials are looking into the leaking of wealthy Americans’ tax information.
The nonprofit journalism group ProPublica revealed information regarding the reported income and tax payments of some of the wealthiest Americans, including Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffett.
Taxpayer information is strictly confidential, and anyone who divulges it faces criminal charges. Mr. Rettig informed legislators that internal and external investigations were underway, with potential prosecutions to follow.
According to the ProPublica story, the news agency did not know who its source was and described the information it received as IRS data on thousands of people spanning more than 15 years.
It’s unclear whether the information—a highly unusual public disclosure of private tax information—came straight from the IRS or if the agency was hacked in some way. The story focused on years when Mr. Bezos and others paid little or no federal income tax.
The FBI’s representative redirected queries to the IRS. The US Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, according to a spokeswoman, would neither confirm or deny the existence of such activities, but will consider all such complaints carefully.