Tax Privacy?

54 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2017 Last revised: 19 Oct 2017

See all articles by Adam B. Thimmesch

Adam B. Thimmesch

University of Nebraska College of Law

Date Written: September 19, 2017


Legal scholars have discussed the concept of privacy at length, but that discussion has virtually ignored the federal income tax and its impact on individual privacy. Tax privacy has developed in that void to mean only a limited right of confidentiality notwithstanding the Tax Code’s extensive use of personal information. That limited form of privacy is at odds with how scholars generally view privacy and fails to account for the numerous privacy interests identified in the broader literature. Recent tax scholarship has recognized this deficiency and has called for greater academic attention to tax-privacy interests. What is missing in the current literature, though, is a discussion of what exactly tax privacy means. This Article fills that void.

Extending tax privacy beyond confidentiality is difficult because privacy is not a uniform concept. Scholars have very different conceptions of privacy, and some of those theories might support a broader view of tax privacy, but some might not. The Article evaluates and critiques those conceptions and shows why tax privacy should not be limited to tax confidentiality. It then explains how the different conceptions of privacy can be used together to analyze and prioritize tax privacy even if it is ultimately a contested concept. That discussion provides a tax-privacy framework that can serve as the foundation for future work in this area.

Keywords: Tax, Tax Policy, Privacy, IRS, Tax Privacy, Tax Confidentiality

Suggested Citation

Thimmesch, Adam B., Tax Privacy? (September 19, 2017). Temple Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Adam B. Thimmesch (Contact Author)

University of Nebraska College of Law ( email )

103 McCollum Hall
P.O. Box 830902
Lincoln, NE 68583-0902
United States

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