It finally happened. Rejecting government arguments to the contrary, a court of competent jurisdiction has explained that 26 U.S.C. §6103—the law that protects the confidentiality of information taxpayers are required by law to provide IRS for purposes of tax administration—does not also protect the government from disclosing, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, whether attempts have been made to improperly access and misuse that information.
The decision comes nearly three years after Cause of Action filed a FOIA request asking the Internal Revenue Service to provide, among other things, documents relating to any requests White House personnel might have made of it regarding particular taxpayers. On several occasions preceding CofA’s FOIA request, White House officials had made public statements referring to information only available to people with access to confidential tax return information. In this and other FOIA litigation, IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have argued that §6103 prevents them from responding to inquiries about whether inquiries have been made about confidential tax return information. No, it doesn’t, ruled Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, in a thorough and thoughtful opinion of the sort that has become her hallmark. The case is Cause of Action v IRS.
A detailed summary of the case and the opinion is at this blog.