Obtaining Information from the Government — Disclosure Statutes (Portfolio 625)


Robin Greenhouse


McDermott Will & Emery LLP


Kevin Spencer


McDermott Will & Emery LLP

Brad McCormack


Internal Revenue Service, Office of Chief Counsel

At a glance

I. Introduction
II. Access to IRS Information Pursuant to Disclosure Statutes
III. Defenses and Objections Raised by the Government to Statutory and Civil Discovery Requests
IV. Specific IRS Documentary Information Obtainable Under § 6110 or FOIA


Bloomberg Tax Portfolio, No. 625, Obtaining Information from the Government — Disclosure Statutes discusses the primary disclosure statutes providing access to IRS information, the Freedom of Information Act, §§6103–6105 and 6110 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), and the Privacy Act of 1974, as well as statutory prohibitions on disclosure. In addition, the Portfolio discusses the availability and scope of discovery in the context of civil tax litigation in the federal district courts, the U.S. Tax Court, and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, as well as actions taxpayers may bring to remedy disclosure violations by the government.

The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) is the disclosure statute with the broadest reach. The FOIA applies to all federal agencies, including the IRS. Under FOIA, a taxpayer may request disclosure of a wide variety of IRS records containing factual information collected or prepared by the IRS, legal analyses and decisions of the IRS, and procedural and operational rules of the IRS. Disclosures pursuant to FOIA are limited by exemptions in the FOIA statute as well as the numerous taxpayer confidentiality limitations imposed by §6103.

Section 6104 addresses public access to exempt organization and employee pension plan exemption applications and related materials.

Section 6110 provides the exclusive access to the written determinations of the IRS, including private letter rulings, technical advice memoranda, determination letters, and related background file documents.

The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. §552a) provides a more limited source of access to IRS records. The Privacy Act enables an individual to obtain access to certain records maintained by an agency in its system of records with respect to that individual.

This Portfolio may be cited as Greenhouse, Spencer, McCormack, 625 T.M., Obtaining Information from the Government — Disclosure Statutes.

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