11.3.16  Privacy Act Notification Programs

Manual Transmittal

August 27, 2013

Purpose

(1) This manual, IRM 11.3.16, Disclosure of Official Information, Privacy Act Notification Programs was reviewed on May 31, 2013, and determined to be technically accurate. It is being reissued as a non-procedural update and includes web link updates and links to citation references.

Material Changes

(1) Editorial changes have been made throughout to update IRM/statute/organizational references and to make the text easier to follow.

Effect on Other Documents

This material supersedes IRM 11.3.16, Disclosure of Official Information, Privacy Act Notification Programs dated August 5, 2008.

Audience

All Operating Divisions and Functions.

Effective Date

(08-27-2013)

Related Resources

The Governmental Liaison and Disclosure intranet home page can be found at:
http://discl.web.irs.gov/GLD.asp

Gregory T. Ricketts
Acting Director, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure

11.3.16.1  (08-05-2008)
Notice to Individuals Asked to Supply Information

  1. The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC § 552a(e)(3)) requires each agency that maintains a system of records, to inform each individual requested to supply information (either on the form it uses to collect the information, or on a separate form that can be retained by the individual), of:

    1. The authority (whether granted by statute or by Executive Order of the President) which authorizes the solicitation of the information and whether disclosure of such information is mandatory or voluntary for tax matters;

      Note:

      The "authority" that authorizes the solicitation of the information would generally be the applicable sections of the Internal Revenue Code. Whether disclosure is "mandatory or voluntary" relates to whether the individual is required to provide the information requested or may refuse to do so;

    2. The principal purpose(s) for which the information is intended to be used.

      Note:

      The "principal purpose(s) for which the information is to be used" relates to the reason the information is needed. This should be the overall reason for which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) performs the operation in which the information is to be used, rather than the detailed processing which it is to undergo.

    3. The routine uses that may be made of the information; and

      Note:

      The "routine uses" refer to the disclosure of a record outside the Department of the Treasury for a purpose which is compatible with the purpose for which it was collected. Routine uses have been ascribed to various Systems of Records. Those identified in a notice to an individual asked to supply information should be similar to but need not be as detailed as those which were included in the Notice of System of Records pertaining to the file in which the information requested is expected to be housed.

    4. The effects on the individual, if any, of not providing all or any part of the requested information.

      Note:

      The "effects" upon an individual of not providing all or part of the requested information should include a brief statement of any penalties involved; it should advise the individual of incidental effects such as possible accrual of interest, loss of benefits, initiation of enforcement action, or other applicable results of his or her refusal.

      Caution:

      Care should be taken in drafting the notice to ensure that the individual is not misled or inadvertently coerced.

  2. This provision is intended to ensure that individuals from whom information about themselves is collected are informed of the reasons for requesting the information, how it may be used, and what the consequences are, if any, of not providing the information.

  3. Implicit in this provision is the notion of informed consent since an individual should be provided with sufficient information about the inquiry to make an informed decision on whether or not to respond.

  4. The intent of the Act is that the notice be informative to the recipient. In order to be meaningful to the average person, it should avoid the use of technical language and should not be so lengthy as to discourage or confuse the reader. The content should summarize rather than itemize the information required so as to avoid unnecessary detail.

  5. This provision of the Act is applicable only to inquiries in which the individual is requested to provide information about himself or herself or his or her own affairs. It does not pertain to inquiries directed to third parties asking for information about someone else.

  6. The term "individual" means a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence (including sole proprietors). The Act does not apply to any entity which is not a natural person, such as a partnership, corporation, decedent, estate or trust.

  7. The provision applies both to taxpayers and to other persons to whom inquiries about themselves may be addressed, such as IRS employees.

    Note:

    Pursuant to 5 USC § 552a(j), Treasury has exempted IRS Criminal Investigation records from the application of the 5 USC § 552a(c)(3) notification requirement.

11.3.16.2  (05-20-2005)
Notice to Individuals Asked to Disclose Their Social Security Account Number

  1. Section 7 of the Privacy Act of 1974 provides that it is unlawful for any Federal, State, or local government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual’s refusal to disclose his or her social security account number.

  2. The Tax Reform Act of 1976 allows a State or political subdivision to require the disclosure of SSNs to establish the identity of any person affected by:

    • Any tax law

    • Any general public assistance law

    • Any driver's license law

    • Any motor vehicle registration law

    • In the issuance of birth certificates and enforcement of child support orders

    Exception:

    An exception is made for any disclosures which are required by Federal statute, and for a disclosure to any Federal, State, or local government agency maintaining a system of records in existence and operating before January 1, 1975, if such disclosure was required under statute or regulation adopted prior to such date for the purpose of verifying the identity of an individual.

  3. An agency which requests an individual to disclose his or her social security account number is to inform the individual:

    1. Whether the disclosure is mandatory or voluntary;

    2. By what statutory or other authority such number is solicited; and

    3. What uses will be made of it.

  4. The authority for requiring the use of social security account numbers as identifying numbers for tax administration purposes is provided by IRC § 6109.

  5. The Notice to Individuals Asked to Disclose Their Social Security Account Numbers, when required by a request related to tax administration purposes is integrated with the Notice to Individuals Asked to Supply Information, and has therefore no existence as a separate form.

11.3.16.3  (08-27-2013)
The "Umbrella" Approach for Tax Returns

  1. The various inquiries made of individuals by the IRS in the course of tax administration are basically part of a single process. Rather than include the identical notice information in numerous forms or letters which represent repeated contacts with the same individual pertaining to the same situation, the IRS has adopted an "umbrella" approach in which the initial contact of a series includes a notice which the individual may retain and which would be applicable to all future inquiries related to that situation. This approach spares the recipient from receiving repetitious and unnecessary identical notices.

  2. A universal notice included in the Form 1040/1040A instruction package applies to:

    1. U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns;

    2. Declarations of estimated tax;

    3. Any other tax returns required to be filed by an individual;

    4. Schedules, statements, or other documents related to the returns;

    5. Subsequent inquiries necessary to complete, correct and process the returns of taxpayers;

    6. Determining the correct tax liability; and

    7. Collection of any unpaid tax, interest or penalty.

  3. This initial notice fulfills the notice requirements insofar as any further inquiries are concerned in the normal course of IRS Campus processing, including initial billing of tax due on the returns.

  4. Although the notice provided with the return instruction package would be legally adequate for subsequent inquiries, the IRS makes available a further notice, designated as Notice 609, Privacy Act and Paperwork Reduction Act Notice, for use when a distinct series of actions takes place beyond Campus processing.

  5. Notice 609 is revised as necessary to conform to the wording used for the universal notice approved for inclusion in the Form 1040/1040A instruction package.

  6. Notice 609 is distributed to:

    1. Taxpayers subject to collection activity on Taxpayer Delinquent Accounts

    2. Taxpayers subject to Taxpayer Delinquency Investigations (in accordance with instructions provided by the appropriate Division Commissioner) and

    3. Taxpayers whose returns are selected for examination in accordance with instructions provided by the appropriate Division Commissioner

  7. Additional copies of Notice 609 are provided to any taxpayer upon request.

  8. The distribution of Notice 609 described in (6) and (7) above does not require any individual documentation as such distribution is made in addition to the minimal legal requirement.

  9. The distribution of the universal notice plus the distribution of separate Notice 609 for the collection related stream and the examination related stream should satisfy the notice requirement for all tax administration inquiries which can be anticipated.

    Note:

    For notice purposes, the Appeals process is considered a continuation of the examination process.

  10. In the event that field officials encounter circumstances requiring additional notices, a further distribution of Notice 609 may be made if the wording appears appropriate to the circumstances.

  11. Separate notices for tax administration purposes should not be adopted without prior concurrence of the:

    1. Appropriate Headquarters function;

    2. Director, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (GLD); and

    3. Office of Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration).

11.3.16.4  (08-27-2013)
Notices Not Related to Tax Administration

  1. The Privacy Act requirements for a notice to individuals asked to supply information, and a notice to individuals asked to disclose their social security account numbers, are also applicable to inquiries not related to tax administration, such as requests for information from IRS employees for administrative purposes.

  2. The variety of information requested on such forms has made the use of a universal notice inappropriate. Accordingly, such forms will generally have individual notices. The notices should be included in the form itself, whenever feasible.

  3. The inclusion of necessary privacy notices in administrative forms is the responsibility of the records owner. Such notices require approval of the Director, GLD. If necessary, staff of the GLD Associate Director, Disclosure will coordinate with the Office of Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration) regarding privacy act notices not related to tax administration.

11.3.16.5  (05-20-2005)
Notifying Individuals That Their Records Were Made Available to a Person Under Compulsory Legal Process

  1. Subsection (e)(8) of the Privacy Act requires that agencies "make reasonable efforts to serve notice on an individual when any record on such individual is made available to any person under compulsory legal process when such process becomes a matter of public record."

  2. This provision applies to disclosures made pursuant to:

    1. Subpoenas and summonses

    2. The order of a court of "competent jurisdiction," as authorized by subsection (b)(11) of the Act and

    3. An IRC § 6103(i) ex parte order that is not sealed

  3. This provision does not apply to disclosures made pursuant to a written request by, or with the written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains and consequently does not apply if the process leading to disclosure is at the behest or on the behalf of the subject of the record.

  4. While this provision does not apply to disclosures made pursuant to subsections (b)(1), (2), (4)-(10), and (12) of the Privacy Act, this provision does apply when a disclosure is made pursuant to a routine use as provided by subsection (b)(3) that authorizes disclosures in response to subpoenas or court orders.

  5. This provision does not apply to disclosures from a system of records exempt pursuant to subsection (j)(2) of the Act, as they are not subject to the subsection (e)(8) notification requirement.

11.3.16.5.1  (08-05-2008)
Notification Procedure

  1. This procedure will be carried out by the Disclosure Manager or under his/her direction.

  2. Any compulsory legal process which appears to make an individual’s record (which is subject to the Privacy Act) available to a third party should be carefully examined to determine whether it is subject to the notification procedure.

    Note:

    The notification procedure only becomes effective if the record is actually disclosed. Nothing in this instruction should be interpreted as authorization for any disclosure.

  3. Notice is to be given within five working days of making a disclosure pursuant to compulsory legal process, except as provided in (4) below.

  4. If the disclosure is made in response to a grand jury subpoena or an ex parte order pursuant to IRC § 6103 (i)(1), IRC § 6103(i)(5), or IRC § 6103(i)(7)(C), the notice should not be given until the subpoena or order becomes a matter of public record. If the subpoena or order does not indicate whether it is a matter of public record, it may be necessary to request the issuing authority to advise the IRS when the matter becomes public so that the required notice may be issued.

  5. The notice will be mailed to the individual’s last known address. One copy of the notice should be maintained in the disclosure file and one copy should be associated with the record disclosed, if practical.


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