U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

IRS consultant charged with leaking tax returns to two news outlets

Incident Details

Date of Incident
September 29, 2023

Leak Case

Charged under Espionage Act
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

An IRS consultant was charged on Sept. 29, 2023, with leaking the tax returns of a high-ranking government official and those of thousands of the country’s wealthiest individuals to two news outlets.

— REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
September 29, 2023

Charles Littlejohn, a contractor for the Internal Revenue Service, was charged on Sept. 29, 2023, with disclosing tax returns without authorization, leaking the information to two news organizations.

A U.S. Department of Justice press release announcing the charges alleged that Littlejohn stole the tax return information associated with an unnamed “high-ranking government official” and disclosed it to an unidentified news organization. ABC News reported that an individual familiar with the matter confirmed that the government official was former President Donald Trump. Trump’s tax returns extending over more than two decades were leaked to The New York Times in 2020.

The DOJ also alleged that Littlejohn stole tax return information for thousands of the country’s wealthiest individuals and shared it with a second unnamed news organization. Several news accounts reported that the unnamed news organization appeared to be ProPublica. That outlet published a series titled “The Secret IRS Files” in June 2021, which relied on what it called “a vast cache” of tax documents.

ProPublica and five of its journalists were each served subpoenas on Aug. 22 in connection with an ongoing lawsuit against the IRS by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin.

Littlejohn, 38, of Washington, D.C., is charged with one count of unauthorized disclosure of tax returns and return information, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted, the DOJ said.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told The Hill in a statement that any disclosure of taxpayer information is unacceptable, but declined to comment on the charges against Littlejohn.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].