Tax Return Preparers' Uses and Disclosures of Tax Return Information
26 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2009 Last revised: 28 May 2010
Date Written: September 5, 2009
It is a criminal offense for a tax return preparer to make an unauthorized use or disclosure of tax return information, and such a use or disclosure is also subject to a civil penalty. The Treasury, in 2008, restated the regulations under the rules imposing these sanctions. The new regulations broaden the scope of several of the crucial terms. For example, for purposes of these rules, the term 'tax return information' includes all information coming into a preparer’s possession in the course of preparing a taxpayer’s return, including, for example, data on a credit card that the taxpayer uses to pay the preparer’s fee, and the term 'tax return preparer' includes all employees of a preparation firm having access to tax return information, including, for example, a clerical employee whose only role in the preparation of a return is to process the taxpayer’s credit card payment of the preparer’s fee. The regulations forbid all uses and disclosures of tax return information, except those explicitly permitted by the regulations. Without a taxpayer’s consent, a preparer can generally use or disclose this information only in connection with preparation of the taxpayer’s return. Almost any use or disclosure is permissible with the taxpayer’s consent, but consent must be in writing, clearly stated, and given before the use or disclosure occurs. For example, a use of taxpayer information to solicit business other than tax preparation services is permissible only with the taxpayer’s prior written consent. This article, an excerpt from a forthcoming revision of the treatise, Federal Taxation of Income, Estates & Gifts, discusses the use and disclosure regulations.
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