The Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee reviewed the IRS’s record retention practices at a hearing on July 25. Officials from the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) testified.

“The IRS has long been challenged in the area of record retention,” Jeffrey Tribiano, Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support, told the House Ways and Means Committee on July 25. “The capabilities needed to implement new record retention mandates required investments in new technology, but one problem has been that those investment dollars were not available. As a result, some agency practices have not been up to the level of those of a typical modern organization,” he said.

An audit by TIGTA found that the IRS’s current e-mail system does not meet federal requirements for storing and managing e-mail messages, TIGTA Assistant Inspector General Greg Kutz told lawmakers. “E-mail records must be retained in an appropriate electronic system with the capability to identify, retrieve, and retain the records for as long as they are needed. “

According to Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Florida., the IRS has changed its record-retention policies three times since 2013, which has created confusion across the agency. Additionally, he noted that the IRS has not yet fully implemented an email system capable of automatically archiving employee emails. “These issues ultimately reduce transparency, open the agency to exposure in civil lawsuits, and inhibit Congressional oversight of the IRS,” Buchanan said

Rep. John Lewis, R-Ga., expressed his concern with the congressional cuts to IRS funding and its impact on performance. According to Lewis, Congress has cut the IRS’s budget by almost $1 billion since 2010. Specifically related to the Service’s IT budget, Congress has enacted cuts totaling $71 million over the last five years and lost nearly 290 IT employees, Lewis noted.