Oops. IRS chief didn’t read agency manual, says emails not ‘official record’

Oops. IRS chief didn’t read agency manual, says emails not ‘official record’

[Ed. – The dog must have eaten something in this situation.  I’m beginning to suspect it’s not a dog on the rampage, but a goat.]

Koskinen offered up his opening statement in writing, in part to suggest that e-mail should not be considered an “official record” anyway:

In discussing document retention at the IRS, it is important to point out that our email system is not being used as an electronic record keeping system. Furthermore, it should be remembered that not all emails on IRS servers or backup tapes qualify as an “official record,” which is defined (in 44 U.S.C. 3301) as any documentary material made or received by an agency under federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and appropriate for preservation. Accordingly, our agency’s email system is not designed to preserve email. Rather, email that qualifies as “records” are printed and retained in compliance with relevant records control schedules. Individual employees are responsible for ensuring that any email in their possession that qualifies as a “record” is retained in accordance with the requirements in the Internal Revenue Manual and Document 12990 (Record Control Schedules).

That’s an odd argument to make, since federal law on record retention in other contexts explicitly require others to retain e-mail data as a record-keeping device. …

Thanks to one reader on Twitter, we can judge Koskinen’s argument as categorically false:

[From Section 1.10.3.2.3 of the IRS Manual]

1.10.3.2  (08-30-2012)
Security/Privacy

  1. Email messages are official documents and should reflect this perspective. Email communications can be offered as evidence in court and can be legally binding. Before sending an email, you must consider how it reflects on the Service’s image and take into account privacy, records management, and security factors. …

1.10.3.2.3  (07-08-2011)
Emails as Possible Federal Records

  1. All federal employees and federal contractors are required by law to preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency. Records must be properly stored and preserved, available for retrieval and subject to appropriate approved disposition schedules.
  2. The Federal Records Act applies to email records just as it does to records you create using other media. Emails are records when they are:
    • Created or received in the transaction of agency business
    • Appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function and activities, or
    • Valuable because of the information they contain
  3. If you create or receive email messages during the course of your daily work, you are responsible for ensuring that you manage them properly. The Treasury Department’s current email policy requires emails and attachments that meet the definition of a federal record be added to the organization’s files by printing them (including the essential transmission data) and filing them with related paper records. If transmission and receipt data are not printed by the email system, annotate the paper copy. More information on IRS records management requirements is available at http://erc.web.irs.gov/Displayanswers/Question.asp?FolderID=4&CategoryID=5 or see the Records Management Handbook, IRM 1.15.1 http://publish.no.irs.gov/IRM/P01/PDF/31421A03.PDF).
  4. An email determined to be a federal record may eventually be considered as having historical value by the National Archivist prior to disposal. Therefore, ensure that all your communications are professional in tone.
  5. Please note that maintaining a copy of an email or its attachments within the IRS email MS Outlook application does not meet the requirements of maintaining an official record.Therefore, print and file email and its attachments if they are either permanent records or if they relate to a specific case.

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