IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel told employees in a new memo about their constitutional and statutory right to make protected disclosures to Congress. Most know they have the right.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith on Saturday said that previous communications by the agency to employees may have had a “chilling effect” on whistleblowers, as they did not tell them that their rights included sharing concerns directly to Congress. A recent letter from attorneys for Hunter Biden, Mr. Smith noted, may have had a similar effect for asking whether it was appropriate for these employees to approach Congress with their concerns.
“The importance of informing whistleblowers about their rights under the law is vital. The Ways and Means Committee has been conducting rigorous oversight of the extremely troubling allegations of retaliation against the IRS whistleblowers who made disclosures to the Committee, which includes inquiries about communications to IRS employees that neglected to tell employees about their rights to make such disclosures,” said Mr. Smith, Missouri Republican in a statement.
“The IRS must be clear with its employees that they have a constitutional and statutory right to make protected disclosures to Congress. Period. Full stop. Any guidance that does not communicate their ability to do so are chilling and make whistleblowers afraid that they will face consequences for making a disclosure to Congress. Such actions by agency officials are unacceptable.”
Mr. Smith said he set up a hotline for whistleblowers as one of his first acts as chair of the Committee and since then, they have received information from IRS employees alleging misconduct and claims of retaliation. “I am glad that Commissioner Werfel finally issued a memo with updated guidance, recognizing Congress’s proper role in holding agencies accountable and protecting whistleblowers,” he said.