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The Right to Confidentiality

Taxpayers have the right to expect that any information they provide to the IRS will not be disclosed unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. Taxpayers have the right to expect the IRS to investigate and take appropriate action against its employees, return preparers, and others who wrongfully use or disclose taxpayer return information.

What This Means for You

  • In general, the IRS may not disclose your tax information to third parties unless you give it permission, e.g., you request that we disclose information in connection with a mortgage or student loan application. IRC § 6103

  • If a tax return preparer discloses or uses your tax information for any purpose other than for tax preparation, the preparer may be subject to civil penalties. If the disclosure or improper use is done knowingly or recklessly, the preparer may also be subject to criminal fines and imprisonment. IRC §§ 6713, 7216

  • Communications between you and an attorney with respect to legal advice the attorney gives you are generally privileged. A similar privilege applies to tax advice you receive from an individual who is authorized to practice before the IRS (e.g., certified public accountant, enrolled agent, and enrolled actuary), but only to the extent that the communication between you and that individual would be privileged if it had been between you and an attorney. For example, communication between you and an individual authorized to practice before the IRS regarding the preparation of a tax return is not privileged because there would be no similar privilege between a taxpayer and an attorney. The privilege relating to taxpayer communications with an individual authorized to practice before the IRS only applies in the context of noncriminal tax matters before the IRS, and noncriminal tax proceedings in Federal court where the United States is a party. IRC § 7525

  • In general, the IRS cannot contact third parties, e.g., your employer, neighbors, or bank, to obtain information about adjusting or collecting your tax liability unless it provides you with reasonable notice in advance. Subject to some exceptions, the IRS is required to periodically provide you a list of the third party contacts and upon request. IRC § 7602(c)

  • The National Taxpayer Advocate and Local Taxpayer Advocates may decide whether to share with the IRS any information you (or your representative) provide them regarding your tax matter, including the fact that you’ve contacted the Taxpayer Advocate Service. IRC § 7803(c)(4)(A)(iv)