Tax Notes Today
quoted Christopher S. Rizek
regarding a third party request to audit the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society following statements on Wikileaks cables that U.S. and Japanese officials discussed the group's tax-exempt status. On March 31, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia remanded to the IRS a Freedom of Information Act request by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The court also directed the IRS to conduct additional searches into communications between American and Japanese officials involving the group which may be of public interest and may outweigh any privacy concerns argued by the IRS. For the complete article, please visit Tax Notes Today's website
(subscription required). Excerpt taken from the article "Court Remands FOIA Case Over Wikileaks Cables" by William R. Davis for Tax Notes Today.
"Plaintiff has pointed to the public interest in knowing whether the IRS's audit was in any way related to the statements revealed by the Wikileaks cables, which indicate that United States government officials discussed the IRS's investigation of plaintiff's tax-exempt status with Japanese government officials who were concerned about plaintiff's activities," the court said in its order.
According to Christopher S. Rizek of Caplin & Drysdale Chtd., who represented Sea Shepherd in this matter, his client strongly believes that the IRS audit was commenced at the request of either the Japanese government or the Institute of Cetacean Research, which is allegedly funded in part by the Japanese government and hunts whales. Rizek said his client believes that the withheld documents will demonstrate that one of them is responsible for initiating the audit.
The IRS notified Sea Shepherd in January 2013 that it would examine the group's tax-exempt status for the 2010 tax year. In October 2014 the IRS closed the audit of Sea Shepherd, Rizek said, adding that he doesn't know what the concern behind disclosing who initiated the audit would be because the audit is closed.
"We are encouraged that the court is requiring the IRS to re-justify its redactions of material that we know includes a referral from somebody; we are trying to find out who that is and we are hopeful we will get that," Rizek said.