Internal Revenue Bulletin:  2007-28 

July 9, 2007 

T.D. 9327

Disclosure of Returns and Return Information in Connection With Written Contracts or Agreements for the Acquisition of Property or Services for Tax Administration Purposes


DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
Internal Revenue Service
26 CFR Part 301

AGENCY:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury.

ACTION:

Final Regulations.

SUMMARY:

This document contains final regulations relating to the disclosure of returns and return information pursuant to section 6103(n) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). The final regulations describe the circumstances under which officers or employees of the Treasury Department, a State tax agency, the Social Security Administration, or the Department of Justice, may disclose returns and return information to obtain property or services for tax administration purposes, pursuant to a written contract or agreement. The final regulations also set forth safeguard requirements that are designed to protect the confidentiality of returns and return information in the hands of contractors, agents, and subcontractors, and their officers and employees, and notification requirements that must be provided, in writing, to officers and employees of the contractors, agents, and subcontractors to inform them that any returns or return information they receive pursuant to these regulations may only be used for the purpose for which it is disclosed to them and that they are subject to the civil and criminal provisions of sections 7431, 7213, and 7213A for the unauthorized inspection or disclosure of the returns or return information.

The final regulations will affect officers and employees of the Treasury Department, a State tax agency, the Social Security Administration, or the Department of Justice, who disclose returns or return information in connection with a written contract or agreement for the acquisition of property or services for tax administration purposes. The final regulations also will affect any person, or officer, employee, agent, or subcontractor of the person, or officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor, who receives returns or return information in connection with a written contract or agreement for the acquisition of property or services.

DATES:

Effective Date: These regulations are applicable June 5, 2007.

Applicability Date: For dates of applicability, see §301.6103(n)-1(g).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Helene R. Newsome, 202-622-4570 (not a toll-free number).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Paperwork Reduction Act

The collection of information contained in these final regulations has been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3507(d)) under control number 1545-1821.

The collection of information in these final regulations is in §§301.6103(n)-1(d) and 301.6103(n)-1(e)(3). This information is required and will be used to ensure compliance with the internal revenue laws and regulations, and to protect the privacy of taxpayers.

Estimated total annual reporting burden: 250 hours. Estimated average annual burden per respondent: 6 minutes.

Estimated number of respondents: 2500.

Estimated annual frequency of responses: Annually.

Comments concerning the accuracy of this burden estimate and suggestions for reducing this burden should be sent to the Internal Revenue Service, Attn: IRS Reports Clearance Officer, SE:W:CAR:MP:T:T:SP, Washington, DC 20224 and to the Office of Management and Budget, Attn: Desk Officer for the Department of the Treasury, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Washington, DC 20503.

An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a valid control number assigned by the Office of Management and Budget.

Books or records relating to a collection of information must be retained as long as their contents may become material in the administration of any internal revenue law. Generally, tax returns and return information are confidential, as required by 26 U.S.C. 6103.

Background

Under section 6103(a), returns and return information are confidential unless the Code authorizes disclosure. Section 6103(n) authorizes, pursuant to regulations prescribed by the Secretary, returns and return information to be disclosed to any person, including any person described in section 7513(a), for purposes of tax administration, to the extent necessary in connection with: (1) the processing, storage, transmission, and reproduction of returns and return information; (2) the programming, maintenance, repair, testing, and procurement of equipment; and (3) the providing of other services.

On January 12, 2005, a notice of proposed rulemaking (REG-148867-03, 2005-1 C.B. 646) was published in the Federal Register (70 FR 2076). The proposed regulations clarified that redisclosures of returns or return information by contractors to their agents or subcontractors are permissible provided that the IRS, in writing, authorizes the redisclosures. The proposed regulations also clarified that agents and subcontractors are persons described in section 6103(n) and, accordingly, are subject to the civil and criminal penalty provisions of sections 7431, 7213, and 7213A for the unauthorized inspection or disclosure of returns or return information. The proposed regulations further clarified that agents and subcontractors are required to comply with any written notification requirements and safeguard restrictions that may be imposed by the IRS.

Finally, the proposed regulations clarified that section 6103(n) applies to written contracts or agreements that are entered into to obtain property or services for tax administration purposes, including contracts that are not awarded under the Federal Acquisition Regulations, 48 CFR parts 1 through 53.

One written comment responding to the notice of proposed rulemaking was received. No public hearing was requested or held. After consideration of the comment, the regulations are adopted as proposed.

Summary of Comment

The commentator recommended that the final regulations provide that any contractor and its agent or subcontractor, who has access to returns or return information under section 6103(n), be required to designate a natural person in the employ of each contractor, agent, or subcontractor who shall have: (1) cognizance and control over all disclosures by such contractor, agent, or subcontractor; (2) the authority to flow down the sanctions set forth in §301.6103(n)-1(e)(4) to lower-tiered agents or subcontractors in the event of their breach of or noncompliance with §301.6103(n)-1; and (3) the authority to apprise promptly the IRS and/or higher-tiered contractors, agents, or subcontractors of such breaches or noncompliance. The commentator explained that imposition of the above requirement would be helpful in discouraging and preventing unauthorized disclosures of returns and return information in the context of contracting and subcontracting. Because the comment was more in the nature of a contractual (case-by-case) rather than a regulatory recommendation, the final regulations do not adopt this recommendation.

Special Analyses

It has been determined that this Treasury decision is not a significant regulatory action as defined in Executive Order 12866. Therefore, a regulatory assessment is not required. It also has been determined that section 553(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 5) does not apply to these regulations. It is hereby certified that the collection of information in these regulations will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. This certification is based on the fact that any burden on taxpayers is minimal in that the estimated average burden per respondent for complying with the collection of information imposed by these regulations is 6 minutes. Therefore, a Regulatory Flexibility Analysis under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 6) is not required. Pursuant to section 7805(f) of the Code, the proposed regulations preceding these regulations were submitted to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration for comment on their impact on small businesses.

Adoption of Amendments to the Regulations

Accordingly, 26 CFR part 301 is amended as follows:

PART 301—PROCEDURE AND ADMINSTRATION

Paragraph 1. The authority citation for part 301 continues to read, in part, as follows:

Authority: 26 U.S.C. 7805 * * *

Par. 2. Section 301.6103(n)-1 is revised to read as follows:

§301.6103(n)-1 Disclosure of returns and return information in connection with written contracts or agreements for the acquisition of property or services for tax administration purposes.

(a) General rule. (1) Pursuant to the provisions of section 6103(n) of the Internal Revenue Code and subject to the conditions of this section, officers and employees of the Treasury Department, a State tax agency, the Social Security Administration, or the Department of Justice, are authorized to disclose returns and return information (as defined in section 6103(b)) to any person (including, in the case of the Treasury Department, any person described in section 7513(a)), or to an officer or employee of the person, for purposes of tax administration (as defined in section 6103(b)(4)), to the extent necessary in connection with a written contract or agreement for the acquisition of—

(i) Equipment or other property; or

(ii) Services relating to the processing, storage, transmission, or reproduction of returns or return information, the programming, maintenance, repair, or testing of equipment or other property, or the providing of other services.

(2) Any person, or officer or employee of the person, who receives returns or return information under paragraph (a)(1) of this section, may—

(i) Further disclose the returns or return information to another officer or employee of the person whose duties or responsibilities require the returns or return information for a purpose described in this paragraph (a); or

(ii) Further disclose the returns or return information, when authorized in writing by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes described in this paragraph (a). Disclosures may include disclosures to an agent or subcontractor of the person, or officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor.

(3) An agent or subcontractor, or officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor, who receives returns or return information under paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section, may further disclose the returns or return information to another officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor whose duties or responsibilities require the returns or return information for a purpose described in this paragraph (a).

(4) Any person, or officer, employee, agent or subcontractor of the person, or officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor, who receives returns or return information under this paragraph (a), may, subject to the provisions of §301.6103(p)(2)(B)-1 (concerning disclosures by a Federal, State, or local agency, or its agents or contractors), further disclose the returns or return information for a purpose authorized, and subject to all applicable conditions imposed, by section 6103.

(b) Limitations. (1) Disclosure of returns or return information in connection with a written contract or agreement for the acquisition of property or services described in paragraph (a) of this section will be treated as necessary only if the performance of the contract or agreement cannot otherwise be reasonably, properly, or economically carried out without the disclosure.

(2) Disclosure of returns or return information in connection with a written contract or agreement for the acquisition of property or services described in paragraph (a) of this section shall be made only to the extent necessary to reasonably, properly, or economically perform the contract. For example, disclosure of returns or return information to employees of a contractor for purposes of programming, maintaining, repairing, or testing computer equipment used by the IRS or a State tax agency shall be made only if the services cannot be reasonably, properly, or economically performed without the disclosure. If it is determined that disclosure of returns or return information is necessary, and if the services can be reasonably, properly, or economically performed by disclosure of only parts or portions of a return or if deletion of taxpayer identity information (as defined in section 6103(b)(6)) reflected on a return would not seriously impair the ability of the employees to perform the services, then only the parts or portions of the return, or only the return with taxpayer identity information deleted, may be disclosed.

(c) Penalties. Any person, or officer, employee, agent or subcontractor of the person, or officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor, who receives returns or return information under paragraph (a) of this section, is subject to the civil and criminal penalty provisions of sections 7431, 7213, and 7213A for the unauthorized inspection or disclosure of the returns or return information.

(d) Notification requirements. Any person, or agent or subcontractor of the person, who receives returns or return information under paragraph (a) of this section shall provide written notice to his, her, or its officers and employees receiving the returns or return information that—

(1) Returns or return information disclosed to the officer or employee may be used only for a purpose and to the extent authorized by paragraph (a) of this section and that the officer or employee is subject to the civil and criminal penalty provisions of sections 7431, 7213, and 7213A for the unauthorized inspection or disclosure of the returns or return information;

(2) Further inspection of any returns or return information for a purpose or to an extent not authorized by paragraph (a) of this section constitutes a misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction by a fine of as much as $1,000, or imprisonment for as long as 1 year, or both, together with costs of prosecution;

(3) Further disclosure of any returns or return information for a purpose or to an extent not authorized by paragraph (a) of this section constitutes a felony, punishable upon conviction by a fine of as much as $5,000, or imprisonment for as long as 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution;

(4) Further inspection or disclosure of returns or return information by any person who is not an officer or employee of the United States for a purpose or to an extent not authorized by paragraph (a) of this section may result also in an award of civil damages against that person in an amount not less than $1,000 for each act of unauthorized inspection or disclosure; or the sum of actual damages sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the unauthorized inspection or disclosure plus, in the case of a willful inspection or disclosure or an inspection or disclosure that is the result of gross negligence, punitive damages. In addition, costs and reasonable attorneys fees may be awarded; and

(5) A conviction for an offense referenced in paragraph (d)(2) or (3) of this section shall, in addition to any other punishment, result in dismissal from office or discharge from employment if the person convicted is an officer or employee of the United States.

(e) Safeguards. (1) Any person, or agent or subcontractor of the person, who may receive returns or return information under paragraph (a) of this section, shall agree, before disclosure of any returns or return information to the person, agent, or subcontractor, to permit an inspection by the IRS of his, her, or its site or facilities.

(2) Any person, or officer, employee, agent or subcontractor of the person, or officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor, who receives returns or return information under paragraph (a) of this section, shall comply with all applicable conditions and requirements as the IRS may prescribe from time to time (prescribed requirements) for the purposes of protecting the confidentiality of returns and return information and preventing any disclosure or inspection of returns or return information in a manner not authorized by this section.

(3) The terms of any written contract or agreement for the acquisition of property or services as described in paragraph (a) of this section shall provide, or shall be amended to provide, that any person, or officer, employee, agent or subcontractor of the person, or officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor, who receives returns or return information under paragraph (a) of this section, shall comply with the prescribed requirements. Any contract or agreement shall be made available to the IRS before execution of the contract or agreement. For purposes of this paragraph (e)(3), a written contract or agreement shall include any contract or agreement between a person and an agent or subcontractor of the person to provide the property or services described in paragraph (a) of this section.

(4) If the IRS determines that any person, or officer, employee, agent or subcontractor of the person, or officer or employee of the agent or subcontractor, who receives returns or return information under paragraph (a) of this section, has failed to, or does not, satisfy the prescribed requirements, the IRS, consistent with the regulations under section 6103(p)(7), may take any actions it deems necessary to ensure that the prescribed requirements are or will be satisfied, including—

(i) Suspension of further disclosures of returns or return information by the IRS to the State tax agency, the Social Security Administration, or the Department of Justice, until the IRS determines that the conditions and requirements have been or will be satisfied;

(ii) Suspension of further disclosures by the Treasury Department otherwise authorized by paragraph (a) of this section; and

(iii) Suspension or termination of any duty or obligation arising under a contract or agreement with the Treasury Department.

(f) Definitions. For purposes of this section—

(1) The term Treasury Department includes the IRS, the Office of the Chief Counsel for the IRS, and the Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration;

(2) The term State tax agency means an agency, body, or commission described in section 6103(d); and

(3) The term Department of Justice includes offices of the United States Attorneys.

(g) Effective date. This section is applicable on June 5, 2007.

Kevin M. Brown,
Deputy Commissioner for
Services and Enforcement.

Approved May 19, 2007.

Eric Solomon,
Assistant Secretary
for Tax Policy.

Note

(Filed by the Office of the Federal Register on June 4, 2007, 8:45 a.m., and published in the issue of the Federal Register for June 5, 2007, 72 F.R. 30974)

Drafting Information

The principal author of these regulations is Helene R. Newsome, Office of the Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure & Administration), Disclosure & Privacy Law Division.

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