IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Thursday night that any American can pull a "Lois Lerner" when audited and claim their hard drive crashed, their dog ate their computer or even that they lost a particular document. He intoned, "We historically, if a taxpayer has lost electronic records, have said if you have other indications and evidence of what went on, we'll take that from you."
Koskinen appeared with Blitzer in an effort to exorcize the arrogant image he exhibited during his recent testimony before two Congressional committees, starting off the segment by apologizing, which was something he refused to do when he spoke to Congress. As CNN reported:
"'The improper criteria used to highlight organizations for investigation just by their name was a mistake,' Koskinen said. 'I apologize to anybody who ever had their applications held up needlessly. Everybody needs to be confident that the IRS is going to treat them fairly no matter who they are. Republicans, Democrats, whatever organization they belong to. So it's a serious matter.'"
On the hard-drive issue the Commissioner claimed crashes happen all the time; he said 2,000 hard drives have failed this year at the IRS, which has about 90,000 employees. He also said the average taxpayer can try to"get away" with using the same type of excuse to an IRS auditor as the IRS is using to Congress:
"When Blitzer noted that taxpayers believe the IRS would never accept the excuse of a hard drive crash for filing an improper return, Koskinen responded that the agency tries to work with people to resolve the situation.
'We historically, if a taxpayer has lost electronic records, have said if you have other indications and evidence of what went on, we'll take that from you,' he said. 'If you lose a document, it doesn't mean you lose the argument. We actually work with taxpayers to say we'll look at other evidence ... and if we can find any evidence to support your case -- and, in fact, if the circumstances support your case, we'll support you and you won't have any problems.'"
The commissioner's statement "you have other indications and evidence of what went on, we'll take that from you" is not the same as the missing Lerner emails which were tied to a specific time and specific recipients. He is asking Congress to accept all the other emails provided in place of the ones asked for. This gambit would be analogous to an auditor asking a taxpayer for "a Tuesday receipt from Starbucks" but ultimately accepting a "Thursday receipt from Dunkin Donuts."