1.15.6 Managing Electronic Records

Manual Transmittal

July 16, 2018

Purpose

(1) This transmits revised IRM 1.15.6, Records and Information Management, Managing Electronic Records.

Background

This IRM covers the creation, maintenance, use, and disposition of federal records created using IRS electronic information systems and personal computers, including electronic mail and other electronic applications.

Managing information in appropriate recordkeeping systems will ensure that IRS is compliant with all records management policies and regulations as established by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Additionally, management of all agency information (hard copy and electronic) will improve the agency’s ability to identify the most current information in a timely manner, increase business efficiency, and provide the correct information for litigation and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The information users create and receive day-to-day may or may not be records and the users need to delete non-record emails when no longer needed for reference; apply the appropriate retention periods to all information regardless of record status (36 CFR 1222.16, How are non-records managed?).

This guidance will help to ensure that IRS records are appropriately managed, retained, and archived. IRS will provide guidance and training where necessary on implementing the requirements provided in this policy.

Material Changes

(1) IRM 1.15.6.1.5 - Acronyms - Removed the outdated term Microsoft Office Communication Server (OCS).

(2) IRM 1.15.6.2 - Basic Electronic Records Management Definitions - Added definitions of Capstone and text message.

(3) IRM 1.15.6.4 - Creation, Use, and Maintenance of Structured Electronic Data - Updated outdated information.

(4) IRM 1.15.6.5 - Creation, Use, and Maintenance of Unstructured Electronic Data - Updated outdated information.

(5) IRM 1.15.6.6 - Managing Electronic Mail Records - Updated subsection title and information.

(6) IRM 1.15.6.6.1 - IRS Account-based Approach Explained - Updated content.

(7) IRM 1.15.6.6.1.1 - Email Sent or Received Using Organizational Mailboxes - Added new subsection and information based on Interim Guidance Memorandum PGLD-01-0917-0003, Organizational Mailbox Management, issued September 20, 2017 implementing records management policy updates for organization mailboxes.

(8) IRM 1.15.6.8 - Security of Electronic Records - Added clarification to current information.

(9) IRM 1.15.6.9 - Retention and Disposition of Electronic Records - Removed outdated information.

(10) IRM 1.15.6.13 - Use of Social Media - Revised the title, removed the section on Managing Records Stored on Electronic Media and incorporated appropriate data into IRM 1.15.6.5.

(11) IRM 1.15.6.14 - Use of Collaboration Tools - Revised the title and updated information.

(12) IRM 1.15.6.14.1 - Use of Agency-approved Electronic Messaging Systems - Moved content from IRM 1.15.6.15.1 and updated the information.

(13) IRM 1.15.6.14.2 - Preserving Electronic Messages - Moved content from IRM 1.15.6.15.2 and updated the information.

(14) Exhibit 1.15.6-1 - Common Questions about Email - Updated outdated information.

(15) Exhibit 1.15.6-2 - Common Questions about Electronic Messaging - Updated outdated information.

(16) Removed references to Microsoft Office Communications Server® (OCS) and Lync® instant messaging throughout the IRM and replaced it with Microsoft Office Skype for Business®.

(17) Editorial changes and website updates made throughout this IRM section.

Effect on Other Documents

This IRM supersedes IRM 1.15.6, dated November 23, 2016. This IRM also incorporates Interim Guidance Memorandum PGLD-01-0917-0003, Organizational Mailbox Management, dated September 20, 2017.

Audience

All divisions and functions

Effective Date

(07-16-2018)


Celia Doggette
Director, Identity and Records Protection (IRP)
Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD)

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. Purpose. This IRM section covers the following:

    1. Basic requirements for electronic records, including electronic mail (email).

    2. Creation, maintenance, retention, and disposition of these records.

    3. Usage and preservation of all electronic messaging systems (including instant and text messaging platforms) that allow users to send messages in real time or for later viewing, and are used to send messages from one account to another account or from one account to many accounts.

    4. An account-management approach to email records management. See IRM 1.15.6.6.1.

    5. Recordkeeping requirements when using personal or non-IRS communications tools to conduct IRS business.

    6. IRS compliance requirements with National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) records management policies and regulations, improvement in business efficiency and faster responses to litigation and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

  2. Audience. These procedures apply to ALL IRS employees and contractors.

  3. Program Owner. The Records and Information Management (RIM) office, under Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD) is the program office responsible for oversight of the Servicewide records management policy.

Background

  1. Electronic messages created, sent or received using agency electronic messaging systems, government-owned devices, and authorized personal devices may be records requiring preservation.

  2. Managing email records by account should improve email records management by simplifying the records schedule for email, and automating email capture and management. It should generally reduce the records management burden on individual email users by:

    • Basing email records retention on the mailbox owner’s role in IRS rather than on the content of each email record; and

    • Automating email capture and management according to the simplified, role-based retention periods.

Authority

  1. 44 U.S.C. Chapters 21, 29, 31, and 33

  2. 36 CFR Chapter XII, Subpart B - Part 1222 - Agency Records Management Responsibilities

  3. 36 CFR Chapter XII, Subpart B - Part 1235 - Transfer of Records to the National Archives of the United States

  4. 36 CFR Chapter XII, Subpart B - Part 1236 - Electronic Records Management

  5. OMB M-12-18, Managing Government Records Directive

  6. NARA Bulletin 2012-02, Guidance on Managing Content on Shared Drives

  7. NARA Bulletin 2013-02, Guidance on a New Approach to Managing Email Records

  8. NARA Bulletin 2014-04, Revised Format Guidance for the Transfer of Permanent Electronic Records

  9. NARA Bulletin 2014-06, Guidance on Managing Email

  10. NARA Bulletin 2015-02, Guidance on Managing Electronic Messages

  11. NARA Bulletin 2015-04, Metadata Guidance for the Transfer of Permanent Electronic Records

  12. Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, Section 402, IRS Employees Prohibited from Using Personal Email Accounts for Official Business

Responsibilities

  1. This IRM is used by ALL IRS employees and contractors to help comply with electronic records management requirements.

Terms

  1. Records - all recorded information such as books, papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of form or characteristics, made or received by a Federal agency under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the United States Government or because of the informational value of data in them. (44 U.S.C. § 3301)

  2. Non-records - work-related documents that do not qualify as records such as duplicate copies, convenience/reference copies, and stocks of publications.

  3. Personal Materials - anything belonging to an individual that is not used to conduct agency business.

Acronyms

  1. The table lists commonly used acronyms and their definitions:

    Acronym Definition
    BYOD Bring Your Own Device
    CFR Code of Federal Regulations
    FOIA Freedom of Information Act
    GRS General Records Schedules, Document 12829
    IM Instant Message
    NARA National Archives and Records Administration
    OMB Office of Management and Budget
    POCs Points of Contact
    PST Personal Storage Files
    RCS Records Control Schedules, Document 12990
    RIM Records and Information Management
    USC United States Code

Related Resources

  1. The following table lists the primary sources of guidance on managing electronic records:

    IRM Title Guidance on
    IRM 1.10.3 Standards for Using Email Standards for using email in the most effective and productive manner
    IRM 10.5.1 Privacy Policy IRS privacy policy
    IRM 10.8.1 Policy and Guidance The foundation to implement and manage security for information systems security within the IRS
    IRM 10.8.26 Government Furnished and Personally Owned Mobile Device Security Policy The minimum security controls required to safeguard government furnished and non-government furnished/personally owned mobile devices
    IRM 11.3.1 Introduction to Disclosure The disclosure program and the legal authority for the program
    IRM 25.3.1 General Guidelines General information regarding suits that may be filed by or against the United States
  2. Employees will find the following information helpful:

    • Records and Information Management SharePoint: https://portal.ds.irsnet.gov/sites/vl003/pages/home.aspx?bookshelf=records%20management

    • 44 U.S.C. § 3301, Definition of a record website: https://www.archives.gov/about/laws/disposal-of-records.html

    • OMB M-12-18, Managing Government Records Directive: https://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/prmd.html

    • Document 12829, General Records Schedules

    • Document 12990, IRS Records Control Schedules

    • Is It A Record? flowchart: https://portal.ds.irsnet.gov/sites/vl003/RelatedResources/Is-it-a-Record.pdf

    • IRS Records Office email at *Records Management mailbox

Basic Electronic Records Management Definitions

  1. An electronic record contains information recorded in a form that is machine-readable (e.g., information that only a computer can process, and which, without a computer, would not be understandable to people). Recorded electronic information becomes a federal record when it satisfies the statutory definition of a “record,” and is the same definition applied to information recorded on paper. Basic definitions pertaining to electronic records management are:

    1. Capstone - a roles-based/account-based approach to (electronic) management of email records that allows for the capture of records that should be preserved as permanent from the accounts of officials at or near the top of an agency or an organizational subcomponent (i.e., Capstone officials). See NARA Bulletin 2013-02 (Aug. 29, 2013).

    2. Collaboration Tools - used to allow multiple users access to the same document for purposes of sharing information.

    3. Database - (in electronic records) - a set of data, consisting of at least one file or a group of integrated files, usually stored in one location and made available to several users at the same time for various applications.

    4. Database Management System - a software system used to access and retrieve data stored in a database.

    5. Data File - numeric, textual, or graphic information that is organized in a strictly-prescribed form and format.

    6. Documentation - records required to plan, develop, operate, maintain, and use electronic records. Included are system specifications, file specifications, codebooks, record layouts, user guides, and output specifications.

    7. Electronic Information System - a system that provides access to computerized federal records and other information.

    8. Electronic Mail System (Email) - a computer application used to create, receive, and transmit messages and other documents. Exception: Excluded from this definition are: file transfer utilities (software that transmits files between users but does not retain any transmission data); data systems used to collect and process data that have been organized into data files or databases on either personal computers or mainframe computers; and word processing documents not transmitted on an email system.

    9. Electronic Mail Message - a record created or received on an electronic mail system including briefing notes, more formal or substantive narrative documents, and any attachments, such as word processing and other electronic documents, which may be transmitted with the message.

    10. Electronic Receipt - information in email systems regarding date and time of receipt of a message, and/or acknowledgment of receipt or access by addressee(s).

    11. Electronic Recordkeeping System - a system whereby records are collected, organized, and categorized to facilitate their preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition.

    12. Electronic Transmission Data - information in email systems regarding the identities of sender and addressee(s), and the date and time messages were sent (sometimes referred to as metadata).

    13. Instant Messaging (IM) - Instant Messaging (IM) is an electronic messaging service that allows users to determine whether a certain party is connected to the messaging system at the same time. IM allows them to exchange text messages with connected parties in real time. Examples of instant messaging systems include Microsoft Office Skype for Business®, Office Communications Server® (OCS), and Lync®.

    14. Records Management Application (RMA) - software used to capture, categorize, locate, and identify records due for disposition, as well as store, retrieve, and document the disposition of records stored within its repository.

    15. Social Media - internet or web-based technologies designed to disseminate information through social interaction. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and other such technologies.

    16. Structured Electronic Data - data that resides in fixed fields within a record or file such as relational databases or Excel spreadsheets.

    17. Text Message - An electronic communication (aka Short Message Service, SMS) sent and received by a mobile phone or other similar device.

    18. Unstructured Electronic Data - data that does not reside in fixed fields, but is free-form text such as word processing documents.

Responsibility for Issuance of Guidance

  1. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for issuing standards for management of federal records created or received on electronic systems. These standards apply to all Federal agency offices using office automation or information systems and will be followed by the IRS. The complete version of 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1236 – Electronic Records Management, is available at http://www.ecfr.gov/.

Creation, Use, and Maintenance of Structured Electronic Data

  1. For electronic information systems that produce, use, or store data files, disposition instructions for the data will be incorporated into the systems’ design.

  2. IT and IRS offices will maintain adequate and up-to-date technical documentation for each electronic system that produces, uses, or stores data files. The minimum documentation required is as follows:

    1. Narrative description of the system, physical and technical characteristics of the records, including a records layout that describes each field (name, size, starting or relative position);

    2. A description of the form of the data (alphabetic, zoned decimal, packed decimal, or numeric);

    3. A data dictionary, or the equivalent information associated with a database management system, i.e., a description of the relationship between data elements in databases, and any other technical information needed to read or process the records;

    4. A copy of the user’s manual or handbook on how to operate and use the system or database;

    5. Completion of IRS Form 12240, Information Systems Description, IRS Form 14510, New Records Series Data Collection, or other documentation verifying records scheduling authorization; and

    6. A sample of the data, reports, or other documents the system or database may produce and to whom they are provided.

      Note:

      These elements and items will be submitted to the Records Specialist for processing and submission to the Records and Information Management (RIM) program office.

  3. Capital Planning and Investment Controls. In accordance with OMB Circular A-130, IRS must incorporate records management functions into the design, development, and implementation of information systems. In addition to ensuring the accessibility and proper accountability for their information systems, IRS must ensure that all electronic systems are evaluated through the Capital Planning and Investment Controls (CPIC) process. The current CPIC questionnaire includes a section on records management. It is important for these questions to be addressed at the beginning of the system development process to ensure that records management functionality is part of the system design phase.

  4. Electronic System Shutdown (related to projects that follow the Enterprise Life Cycle (ELC) process). Electronic system owners must follow appropriate shutdown procedures when a system is scheduled for cancellation. The process is defined through the following series of actions to ensure orderly and efficient performance of essential shutdown activities.

    1. If information is to be migrated to another system, you must:
      i. Notify the RIM program office of changes to system (i.e., name change, or changes in functionality, etc.);
      ii. Determine if any changes should be made to the disposition of the new system based on changes in functionality; and
      iii. Manage the new system in accordance with an approved disposition authority.

    2. If the information is not being migrated to a new system, you must:
      i. Notify the RIM program office that this information will no longer be collected; and
      ii. Establish a plan to manage any legacy record data that has not yet met its approved disposition.

Creation, Use, and Maintenance of Unstructured Electronic Data

  1. These requirements apply to all IRS unstructured recordkeeping systems and File Shares (Shared Drives and I-Drives). For guidance specific to email records, see IRM 1.15.6.6. These systems will:

    1. Store and preserve federal records and associated metadata. Allow the agency to retrieve and use all records in the system until the NARA-approved retention period is met. Include procedures to migrate records and their associated metadata to new storage media or formats to avoid loss due to media decay or technological obsolescence.

    2. Manage access and retrieval. Establish appropriate user rights to access, search, and retrieve records, and prevent unauthorized access, modification, or destruction of records. Include appropriate audit trails to track use of the records.

    3. Execute dispositions. Identify permanent records and carry out their transfer to NARA based on approved disposition. Identify and destroy temporary records that are eligible. Apply records holds or freezes or dispositions when required.

    4. Backup systems. Back up the electronic records using processes and media (system or file) that incorporate the appropriate functions in this section.

  2. Information Technology Responsibilities. IT must provide storage locations for unstructured data that meet requirements described under (1a-d) above. IT must ensure that the records management functionality is appropriately enabled in all applicable document management systems. This includes the ability to appropriately apply NARA-approved records disposition authorities upon deployment of the system. Records management functionality may exist in the form of in-place records management capabilities that allow records to be managed in the originating system, or records centers/repositories outside of the originating system.

  3. All employee responsibilities. IRS employees MUST be able to distinguish between federal records and those non-record documents that may be business-related but do not meet the legal definition of a record (44 U.S.C. § 3301) or warrant long-term retention. IRS employees MUST manage all information, both record and non-record.

  4. Appropriate Use of Storage Locations for Unstructured Data.

    1. Document Management systems/Collaboration environments. Once all records management functionality is enabled, these are appropriate platforms to store unstructured electronic records. Information Resource Coordinators (IRCs), content owners, and system managers must work with the RIM staff to establish/identify appropriate dispositions for information within these records storage locations.

    2. Individual Employee Networking sites. Once all records management functionality is enabled in document management systems/collaboration environments, they are appropriate platforms to store unstructured electronic records. Information Resource Coordinators (IRCs), content owners, and system managers must work with the RIM staff to establish/identify appropriate dispositions for information within-these records storage locations..

    3. File Shares (e.g., Shared Drives) and local Individual Drives (e.g., I-Drives). These storage locations alone do not provide the functionality necessary to electronically manage record information. If records are managed in file shares, manual processes and procedures must be incorporated as supplements in writing and a copy provided to the RIM office. Written procedures must include the following:


      i. Ensuring records are covered by NARA-approved dispositions;
      ii. Identifying and managing the record copy when multiple copies and versions exist;
      iii. Implementing controls to protect the trustworthiness of records and the related metadata;
      iv. Structuring folders, sub-folders, and files within a shared drive to associate records with their approved records schedule;
      v. Implementing and maintaining audit trails to track use of the records;
      vi. Organizing records and related disposition when offices change, merge, cease to exist, or if custodians change/leave service;
      vii. Monitoring the record copies of long-term temporary or permanent records to ensure they do not become technologically obsolete;
      viii. Developing policies/procedures regarding access, including permissions and acceptable formats;
      ix. Establishing points of contact responsible for shared drive management; and
      x. Establishing and reinforcing naming conventions applicable at folder, sub-folder, and file level for identification of final record copies.

    4. Laptop/Desktop hard drives. These storage locations do not provide the functionality necessary to electronically manage record information. They should only be used to store personal material, reference material, or working papers that do not need to be accessed/collaborated on by others. All final recordkeeping copies must be moved to an appropriate electronic recordkeeping system.

    5. Removable Media (sometimes referred to as Portable Storage Device (PSD)). Media such as flash drives, CDs, DVDs, and removable storage devices must not be used to store record information. All record material must be moved to a compliant recordkeeping system. These media are best used to transport information for the purposes of ingest into an approved recordkeeping system. To use this type of media as a transfer vehicle to NARA, see instructions in IRM 1.15.6.10. All requests for removable media should be controlled and tracked using the criteria below:


      i. An inventory of all removable media must be maintained;
      ii. All removable media must be properly labeled; and
      iii. All removable media must be stored under proper environmental conditions (contact IT or RIM for assistance) and all security precautions must be taken to protect information for as long as the information is maintained.

  5. Managing Non-records. Non-records are typically copies of business related information used for reference purposes, drafts of business-related information, or purely personal materials of a non-business related nature. Manage non-records as follows:

    1. Store non-records/personal material separate from federal records; and

    2. Review work-related non-records annually and delete in a timely manner based on relevance and continuing need of information.

Managing Electronic Mail Records

  1. Email records, include but are not limited to, decision-making emails, sent copies of reports or email requests from taxpayers for review, comment, or action; detailed information requests requiring research; and correspondence between taxpayers and employees, must be maintained in accordance with the email account rules for that employee/organizational email account prescribed below.

IRS Account-based Approach Explained

  1. Under the account-based approach, IRS manages email records based on the role of the email account user and/or office rather than on the content of each email record. Email records are captured and managed according to user role using the following retention approach:

    Role Position Email Records Management
    Senior Officials
    • Commissioner

    • Deputy Commissioners

    • Advisors, and other top level positions identified in the IRS Organizational Chart

    • Employees in "Acting" or "Detail" status to any of these positions

    IRS will retain permanent email records according to the approved email records schedule and then accession them into the National Archives of the United States.
     

    Note:

    The IRS Records and Information Management (RIM) program office and the Information Technology (IT) office maintain the official list of Senior Officials’ email accounts.

    All other IRS employees   IRS will retain according to the email records schedule, and delete when twenty (20) years old.
  2. Exceptions:

    1. Non-Records: ALL account holders must delete non-records when no longer needed for reference. Non-records include non-business related messages, "broadcast" messages (e.g., IRS messages to all staff), and advertisements.

    2. Personal Messages: ALL account holders must delete personal messages to ensure separation from record email messages. Personal messages are those messages from family/friends or colleagues that do not have an effect on the conduct of agency business.

    3. Short-term (Transitory) Messages: ALL account holders must delete short-term (transitory) messages immediately or once final action is complete. Short-term (transitory) messages are those business-related messages such as routine exchanges of information, inquiries about availability and other routine actions.

    4. Email records retained with related records: When business needs require email records to be retained with other records (such as part of a case file), you should forward or copy these email records to the appropriate recordkeeping system (i.e., electronic recordkeeping system or paper file) and maintain according to the Document 12990, IRS Records Control Schedules or Document 12829, General Records Schedules. This account-based approach does not replace existing business practices that require email messages and other related records to be retained together in established recordkeeping systems, which may be paper or electronic.

    Note:

    GRS 5.1, Item 020 authorizes deletion of electronic email records once filed in an official recordkeeping system (such as with a related case file, or within another records management application) prior to use of the appropriate item from GRS 6.1. However, GRS 6.1 FAQs states that this item DOES NOT apply to permanent email accounts.

Email Sent or Received Using Organizational Mailboxes
  1. Use of Organizational Mailboxes:

    1. An organizational mailbox (or group email account) is a shared email account used to send and receive business unit correspondence. A shared mailbox has mail address, storage quota, and can only be accessed by members of an authorized group.

    2. Organizational email accounts must only be used for sending or receiving email related to the specific organization’s business purpose.

    3. Organizational mailboxes should not be used for personal communications (emails strictly personal in nature and not related to agency business), and if they are, must be deleted immediately after close of discussion thread.

    4. The organization or organizational component using a shared mailbox must designate a mailbox manager or “owner” with primary responsibility for overall management of the mailbox. The mailbox owner must establish business use rules and ensure compliance with agency and organizational policy for assigning emails, tasking email responses, and preserving the emails as appropriate.

    5. Capstone officials may not use organizational mailboxes for communications more appropriately reserved for their individual accounts.

  2. Preservation:

    1. Organizational mailboxes, with few exceptions, are maintained as temporary 20 year accounts.

    2. For an organizational mailbox account, preservation of record emails means preserving the final, comprehensive thread of incoming messages and outgoing responses of any communications that are initiated directly by the mailbox owner and/or staff monitoring the mailbox. Duplicate emails may be deleted.

    3. Preservation of the email record also means ensuring retention for situations where incoming emails are forwarded to other IRS staff (including staff outside the organization to which the mailbox is assigned) for response based on subject matter expertise. The organizational mailbox record must preserve the incoming email and the outgoing email that provides documentation of the request, who is being tasked for response, and response due date.

    4. The employee tasked to respond must ensure his/her follow-up actions are appropriately preserved. This account-based approach does not replace existing business practices that require email messages and other related records to be retained together in established recordkeeping systems and maintained per approved records retentions.

Email Sent or Received Using Government-issued Communications Tools

  1. Business-related emails sent or received on government-issued devices such as cell phones, smart phones, blackberries, etc. will be managed as part of the IRS Exchange Server email environment in accordance with the account-based email policies set forth in the previous sections.

    Note:

    The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, Section 402 IRS Employees Prohibited from Using Personal Email Accounts for Official Business states that "No officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service may use a personal email account to conduct any official business of the Government" .

Email Created Using Personal or Non-IRS Communications Tools (Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Program)

  1. Business-related emails sent or received as part of BYOD will be managed in accordance with the account-based email policies set forth in previous sections.

Email Created Using Personal or Non-IRS Communications Tools (not part of the BYOD Program)

  1. In accordance with IRM 10.8.1, Information Technology (IT) Security, Policy and Guidance, and IRM 10.5.1, Privacy and Information Protection, Privacy Policy, IRS employees are prohibited from using personal, or non-IRS, email and other communication tools to conduct IRS business, except in emergency situations.

    1. Business-related communications must be copied to the employee’s official email account at the time of transmission of the email.

      Note:

      The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 prohibits IRS employees from using personal email accounts for official business. PATH Act, Division Q, Title IV, § 402 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, Pub. L. 114-133 (Dec. 18, 2015), 129 Stat. 3117. For details, see IRM 10.5.1.6.8.4, Privacy Policy, Emails with Personal Accounts.

       

    2. Maintain business-related communications in accordance with the appropriate records management policies.

    3. Copies left behind on personal devices must be appropriately managed and deleted in a timely manner after they are saved in a compliant recordkeeping system. All government-owned information is subject to discovery and FOIA.

Encrypted Email

  1. The Records and Information Management (RIM) program office will provide oversight for the following:

    • For email accounts containing permanent email, work with the appropriate business unit functions to ensure that encrypted emails are unencrypted prior to transfer to NARA. This includes deactivation of passwords or other forms of file level encryption that would impede access to record data.

    • When transferring permanent records to NARA, RIM will ensure that any restrictions on the use and examination of records, such as those under IRC § 6103 and the FOIA are included in documentation accompanying the transfer.

Litigation Holds

  1. For email accounts subject to litigation holds (IRM 25.3.1, Litigation and Judgments, General Guidelines and IRM 34.7.1.1.4, Discovery Obligations to Preserve Evidence Including Electronically Stored Information (ESI)), potentially relevant email or instant messages cannot be deleted or altered while the litigation hold is in effect. If account holders are separating from the service, and their information is under a litigation hold, they MUST notify their managers who MUST ensure that upon separation, all information is maintained and accessible until the litigation hold is lifted. This includes ensuring that ESI on separating employees’ laptop or other personal computer equipment is preserved, and not erased by Information Technology personnel. For further information on separating employee guidance, see IRM 1.15.5, Relocating/Removing Records.

  2. Email or instant messages may be subject to other holds, such as in connection with congressional inquiries and FOIA requests, and procedures in which the preceding paragraph will apply.

Email Backup Systems

  1. System and file backup processes and media do not provide the appropriate recordkeeping functionalities and must not be used as the agency electronic recordkeeping system.

  2. Backup systems should adhere to prescribed management requirements as defined in Document 12829, General Records Schedules, GRS 3.2 items 040 and 050.

Judicial Use of Electronic Records

  1. Electronic records may be admitted in evidence to federal courts for use in court proceedings if trustworthiness is established by thoroughly documenting the recordkeeping system's operation and the controls imposed upon it [Federal Rules of Evidence 803(8)]. IRS offices should implement the following procedures to enhance the legal admissibility of electronic records:

    1. Document that similar kinds of records generated and stored electronically are created by the same processes each time and have a standardized retrieval approach;

    2. Verify that security and audit procedures prevent unauthorized addition, modification, or deletion of a record and ensure system protection against such problems as power interruptions;

    3. Identify the electronic media on which records are stored throughout their life cycle, the maximum time span that records remain on each storage medium, and the NARA-approved disposition of all records; and

    4. Coordinate all of the above with the Office of Chief Counsel, the Servicewide IRS Records Officer and senior IRM and records management staff.

Security of Electronic Records

  1. IT and IRS offices with responsibility for electronic records will implement and maintain an effective records security program that incorporates the following:

    1. Ensures that only authorized personnel have access to electronic records.

    2. Provides for backup and recovery of records to protect against information loss or corruption.

    3. Ensures that appropriate agency personnel are trained to safeguard sensitive or classified electronic records.

    4. Minimizes the risk of unauthorized alteration or erasure of electronic records.

    5. Ensures that electronic records security is included in computer systems security plans prepared pursuant to the Computer Security Act of 1987.

Retention and Disposition of Electronic Records

  1. The Servicewide IRS Records Officer is the liaison with NARA and customer organizations for ensuring that electronic records and the related documentation are retained for as long as needed by the IRS. These disposition and retention procedures shall include provisions for:

    1. Scheduling all electronic records, as well as related documentation and indexes, by submitting a SF-115, Request for Records Disposition Authority, to NARA or, in some instances by applying NARA’s General Records Schedules. The information in electronic information systems, including those operated for the IRS by a contractor, will be scheduled as soon as possible, but no later than one year after implementation of the system.

    2. Transferring a copy of the electronic records and related documentation and indexes to NARA at the time specified in the Records Control Schedules for permanent records.

Transfer Media and Formats for Permanent Records

  1. The legal requirements for the transfer of permanent records to NARA are documented in 36 CFR 1235 and set forth in general form in the paragraphs below. Consult the IRS RIM program office for more detailed instructions and guidance on the transfer for permanent IRS records.

Magnetic Tape

  1. IRS offices may transfer electronic records to NARA on magnetic tape using either open-reel magnetic tape or tape cartridges. Open-reel tape should be on 1/1 inch 9-track tape reels recorded at 1600 or 6250 bytes per inch and blocked no higher than 32,760 bytes per block. Tape cartridges should be 18-track 3480-class cartridges recorded at 37,871 bpi and blocked at no more than 32,760 bytes per block.

Compact Disk, Read Only Memory (CD-ROM) and Digital Video Disk (DVD)

  1. CD-ROMs may be used as transfer media for fielded data files or text files if they conform to the International Standards Organization (ISO) 9660 Standard and to the American Code for Information Interchange (ASCII); are not compressed unless NARA has approved the transfer of the compressed form in advance; and are individually addressable. The CD-ROM may contain software files and temporary records, but permanent records must be in files that contain only permanent records.

  2. DVDs may be used to transfer certain types of permanent files. It is recommended to look for gold or silver colored DVDs for the best quality. If transferring records that have been copied to a DVD from another media, agencies must transfer the premaster videotape and two copies of the discs. All permanent files must be on one DVD and not mixed with temporary files.

Formats

  1. Records will be in a format that is not dependent on specific hardware or software, written in ASCII or EBCDIC with all extraneous characters removed (except records length indicators for variable length records, marks delimiting a data element, field, record or file, or Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) tags). Records should not be compressed unless NARA has approved the transfer in the compressed form in advance. If the records are in ASCII, the electronic files should have standard ANSI labels as specified in Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) Publication 79 and/or ISO Standard 9600. If the records are in EBCDIC, the electronic files should have standard IBM OS or DOS labels.

  2. Data files and databases shall be transferred as flat files or as rectangular tables, that is, as two-dimensional arrays, lists, or tables. All records in a database or elements in a relational database should have the same logical format. Each data element within a record should contain only one data value. A record should not contain nested repeating groups of data items.

  3. Textual Documents in electronic form should be transferred as plain ASCII files; such files may contain SGML or XML tags.

  4. Electronic mail, scanned images of textual records, portable document format (PDF) records, digital photographic records, web content records, and digital spatial data files should be transferred to NARA in accordance with requirements available at http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/policy/transfer-guidance.html.

Transfer of Documentation to Support Permanent Records

  1. IRS offices must provide adequate technical documentation for each permanent electronic file identified for transfer to NARA. Adequate documentation contains enough information to allow the records to be interpreted and understood in context. The extent, format, and content of the documentation varies for different types of electronic records. The documentation for a text file differs from the documentation for survey data or statistical files and from that for indices or tracking files. Within the types of records, documentation can vary as well. One survey might have very different documentation than another survey. This subsection provides some guidance to IRS offices regarding the content and potential sources of adequate documentation for permanent electronic records.

Sources of Documentation

  1. Information about documentation might be in publications, administrative reports, annual reports, memoranda, user notes, system guides, inventories or control systems for electronic records, file descriptions, Privacy Act notices, or manual or automated data dictionaries. The information about documentation is more important than the format.

Format of Documentation

  1. Some of the documentation for electronic records may only exist in paper form. When the documentation is in electronic format, identify and transfer the documentation data as separate files along with the files containing the electronic records. The transfer format standards for electronic records also apply to documentation files. Microform copies of documentation, when available, are also useful.

Scope of the Documentation

  1. Three main types of information make up documentation: technical specifications, information about file content and structure, and context. Provided below is more information on each type:

    1. IRS Form 12240, and/or required technical specifications adequate for servicing and interpreting each file.

    2. Each file requires a specific definition of its structure and content. This includes a record layout and a codebook for each field containing coded information. Documentation may be in data dictionaries, file, user, codebooks, or system manuals.

    3. Contextual information explains how the electronic records fit into the IRS programs or mission. This information answers the questions: "Who created the Records?" and "Why?" and "For What Purpose?"

    4. If several data files containing related information are transferred, the documentation should include a description or diagram of how the files relate to each other. At a minimum, the documentation should specify the key fields, including primary keys, used to uniquely identify each record in a file, and the foreign keys, which relate records in one file to records in another file.

Transfer Forms

  1. The forms required to transfer permanent records to NARA are set forth below:

    1. The Standard Form (SF) 258, Agreement to Transfer Records to the National Archives of the United States, (completed by the IRS Records Staff only – see Exhibit 1.15.5-1 for a sample).

    2. NA Form 14097, Technical Description for Transfer of Electronic Records to the National Archives, or its equivalent, IRS Form 12240, must be completed and provided by the program office for attachment to the SF-258.

  2. Contact your Records Specialist found at https://portal.ds.irsnet.gov/sites/vl003/RelatedResources/Records-and-Information-Management-Area-Specialist-Map.pdf or the RIM program office for instructions and assistance in completing the systems form and identification of other documents necessary for transfer of the electronic records.

  3. Submit the NA Form 14097, or its equivalent, IRS Form 12240, along with the identified documentation through your Records Specialist to the IRS RIM program office for completion, approval, and submission to NARA.

  4. NARA Bulletin 2015-04, Metadata Guidance for the Transfer of Permanent Electronic Records, defines the minimum set of metadata elements that must accompany transfers of permanent electronic records to the National Archives. Federal agencies are required to transfer documentation adequate for NARA to identify, service, and interpret permanent electronic records for as long as they are needed.

Use of Social Media

  1. IRS must manage record material produced or posted using social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and other similar technologies.

  2. The following records management considerations must be addressed with the use of these technologies:

    1. The IRS must capture and manage, in accordance with an approved Records Control Schedule (RCS), information that meets the statutory definition of a federal record (44 U.S.C. § 3301).

    2. More than one office/agency may have a responsibility for the same records, depending on their use.

    3. Records must be managed in accordance with the content and not the format.

    4. Records determined to have permanent value must be transferred to NARA in an approved format. Records may have to be migrated from original format to one accepted by NARA at the time of transfer.

  3. For additional information and guidance, contact the IRS RIM program office.

Use of Collaboration Tools

  1. IRS must ensure the proper management of record material produced using collaboration tools (e.g. wikis, blogs, web portals, etc.). Collaboration may happen in multiple contexts, such as person to person, office to office, agency to agency, or public to agency (i.e., via interactive websites).

  2. The following records management considerations must be addressed with the use of these technologies:

    1. Information that meets the statutory definition of a federal record (44 U.S.C. § 3301) must be captured and managed in accordance with an approved RCS.

    2. Records must be captured in an accessible, usable format.

    3. If the collaboration is not located on the agency’s network, the business unit must discuss procedures for the capture of record material with the IRS Records Office via *Records Management.

      Note:

      This guidance does not cover voicemail/Viewmail or the exchange and sharing of real time information through Live Meeting, group training sessions or similar functions of a collaboration system. Business unit creators are responsible for the official maintenance of training/presentation/briefing materials shared (or updated) using Live Meeting or screen shares. The instant messaging software server is not the recordkeeping repository for those documents, and copies maintained by meeting participants would be considered reference material eligible for destruction when no longer needed. The business unit initiating a Live Meeting or share session to conduct business must make a decision as to the most appropriate method for documenting the session, such as an audio recording or written minutes. All official meeting records including the agenda, minutes, handouts, presentation materials, and recordings, should be maintained outside the session by the host business unit in association with an approved disposition authority for that office.

Use of Agency-approved Electronic Messaging Systems

  1. Email should be used for official business. Guidance for the management of email records is found in IRM 1.15.6.6 , Managing Electronic Mail Records. See also IRM 10.5.1.6.8, Privacy and Information Protection, Privacy Policy, Email.

  2. Electronic messaging systems (for example, Microsoft Office Skype for Business®) should only be used for informal business communications and collaborations. Examples of suitable use include, but are not limited to:

    1. Real-time, quick communications among employees relating to requests for information/status that require no follow-up actions or business decisions and do not form the basis for action or decision, such as communications to inform an employee that a document is ready for signature, a request to review draft work products (including attachments), or to inquire about an employee’s availability for a phone call or meeting.

    2. Casual reminders, such as notification about a change to one’s schedule, reminder of a deadline, or scheduling of work-related trips and visits.

  3. Employees should not use electronic messaging systems to engage in discussions regarding policy matters, business decisions, or documentation of other mission-critical functions. This will result in the creation of a federal record that requires preservation beyond the closeout of the instant messaging session. Examples of unsuitable use include, but are not limited to:

    1. Communications documenting IRM reviews and policy approvals, or decisions.

    2. Discussions about examinations and/or case processing and resolution.

    3. Communications regarding personnel matters and performance (e.g., disciplinary actions, disputes, or grievances).

  4. In accordance with IRM 10.8.1.4.1.18.2, Telecommunication Devices, the use of text messaging with government-furnished BlackBerrys or cellular phones to conduct official business is prohibited. Text messaging may only be used in emergencies, such as when the IRS network is down and there is an urgent need to communicate or in disaster recovery situations.

  5. Electronic messages must adhere to the general rules for the privacy, security, transmission, and handling of sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information and personally identifiable information (PII) contained in IRM 10.5.1, Privacy Policy and IRM 10.8.1, Information Technology Security, Policy and Guidance. Instant messaging systems are acceptable and convenient methods of automatic encrypted file transmission but do not supersede policy or work processes for certain programs and offices. Only access or share SBU data or PII with an IRS employee who has a need for it in performing official duties.

  6. The following chart includes some examples of unsuitable use of instant messaging systems:

    Unsuitable Use of Instant Messaging
    If message pertains to... Such as... Then... Why
    Requests for managerial approvals in connection with examination or case-related decisions, closing actions or requests to assert penalties I am on a call and I think I can obtain compromise.


    I just finalized my review of the file and wanted to know if I could ask your approval of a recommended course of action.
    Instant Messaging should not be used. Instant Messaging should not be used for policy determinations, decisions, or documentation of other mission-critical functions. If used in this manner, the message must be preserved in association with related records and in accordance with applicable records schedules.
    Personnel or performance matters I want to know why I did not get an Outstanding on my annual performance appraisal.


    I would like to request two days off next week.
    Instant Messaging should not be used. Instant Messaging should not be used to document or review personnel or performance matters. If used in this manner, the message must be preserved in association with related records and in accordance with recordkeeping guidance found in Document 12829, General Records Schedules.

Preserving Electronic Messages

  1. This guidance provides specific instructions for preserving instant messages and text messaging. Recordkeeping responsibilities must also be considered when using other electronic messaging systems that are currently available or made available in future deployments.

  2. Instant Messages:

    1. Messages that are records with a short-term business need (transitory) do not need to be preserved. Examples of short-term instant messages include, but are not limited to:

      i. Personal observation about work-related topics, but not for the conduct of agency business;
      ii. Inquiries about availability; and
      iii. Quick communications that require no follow-up actions or business decisions and do not form the basis for action or decision.

      Note:

      It is the employee’s obligation to ensure messages that are sent or received and determined to be substantive in nature are appropriately preserved (see 2.b. below and Exhibit 1.15.6-2).

    2. In the event an instant message is created and is not transitory (see 2.a. above), it must be saved BEFORE the message is closed out. The employee will have the ability to save messages to the Conversation History folder in his or her Outlook by pressing Ctrl + S.

      Note:

      This guidance is specific to the preservation of records using the chat function of instant messaging systems. Any attachments will not be automatically saved using Ctrl + S. Recordkeeping attachments must be saved to the appropriate case, policy, project, or other business file. All other copies transmitted for sharing or reference purposes do not need to be saved.

    3. Once the message is in the Conversation History folder, follow the guidance below:
      i. If messages require association with records in another recordkeeping system (as part of a case, policy, project, or other official business file), employees should use the “File, Save As” function or print to PDF to incorporate the instant message into the recordkeeping system.
      ii. If messages warrant retention, but not in conjunction with a case, policy, or project file, employees should leave the message in the Conversation History folder, or use their mouse to click and hold the message, move (drag) to the desired location, then release (drop) the message into their inbox or other email folder. In either instance, the message will take on the retention prescribed under the IRS Email Management Policy found in IRM 1.15.6.6, Managing Electronic Mail Records.

    4. Instant messages that are subject to a litigation hold, regardless of whether the messages meet the definition of federal records, MUST be saved prior to closing out of the message to ensure their preservation in the event they need to be produced. Messages must be transferred in one of the acceptable manners described in 2.b. above.

    5. Instant messages may also be subject to other holds, such as those in connection with congressional inquiries and FOIA requests. These messages MUST be saved prior to closing the message to ensure their preservation in the event they need to be produced. Messages must be transferred in one of the acceptable manners described in 2.b. above.


    The following chart contains instant messaging examples when preservation is not required beyond active messaging session.
     

    Records Management Decisions for Agency-Approved Instant Messaging System
    If message pertains to... Such as... Then... Why
    Inquiries about availability Do you have time for a quick call before the briefing?


    The meeting is about to start. Are you joining?


    Looks like we need to get ahead of this issue. Please schedule a staff meeting.
    Close out session; do not save. Work-related, short-term in nature.


    Message does not contain information that is a record, only routine notifications and/or reminders that an action is requested.
    Requests for information/status I cannot find my copy of the office SOP (standard operating procedures). Can you send me another copy when you get the chance?


    I sent you draft IRM updates for your review a week ago. Can you please share the status?
    Close out session; do not save. Work-related, short-term in nature.


    Requests for information or publication require no policy decision or special compilation.


    Final IRM approval will be officially recorded on Form 2061, Document Clearance Record.
    Routine exchanges of information Just reminding you that I am scheduled to be on leave tomorrow. Close out session; do not save. Information communication, not a record of the approved leave, which is recorded in personnel files.
  3. Text Messages (Mobile Communication Devices)

    In accordance with IRM 10.8.1.4.1.18.2, Telecommunication Devices, the use of text messaging with government-furnished BlackBerrys or cellular phones is prohibited, except in emergency situations. In the event of an emergency, users must document the information communicated as records and transfer to an approved recordkeeping system within 20 days (per the Federal Records Act, 44 U.S.C. § 2911). This may be accomplished by copying the text message into a government-provided email account. Copies remaining on devices should be deleted immediately after the record has been incorporated into the approved recordkeeping system. All government-owned information is subject to discovery and FOIA.

    Note:

    Text messaging functionality is not available within the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program’s Good application enterprise environment.

Common Questions about Email

When are email messages records?

An email message is a record if:

  • it documents the IRS mission or provides evidence of an IRS business transaction, or

  • it can be used in other official actions.

Email messages are records unless solely personal in content and use, or are non-records. Personal and non-record emails should be maintained separate from official (record) emails.

Do I have to manage incoming and outgoing email as records?

Yes, you should apply the standard described above to both incoming and outgoing email. The reason is that both the sender and recipient of email messages have the responsibility to document their activities and those of their organizations. Both the sender and the recipient have to determine whether a particular email message is a necessary part of that documentation or if it fills in gaps in other records series.

How can email be an official record if it is not signed?

A signature does not make an email a record. Many types of records, such as incoming letters, formal and informal manuals, published reports, photographs, voice recordings and maps, do not contain signatures, but they can be records.

If an email record is sent to several recipients, which copy is the official record?

It depends. Different copies of the same message may ALL be records. If you take any official action related to a message, and if the message is needed for adequate and complete documentation of the action, the message would be a record in your office, regardless of whether copies are retained elsewhere. If you receive a message for information purposes only and do not take any action related to it, your copy is not a record.

Do these guidelines apply to IRS contractors?

Yes, these guidelines apply to IRS contractors and agents who act on behalf of the IRS, as well as ALL IRS employees. Contract terms should ensure that contractor systems satisfy the legal requirements for creating and maintaining adequate and complete records of IRS transactions when those transactions are carried out by contractors.

Are there special requirements for retaining email messages as records?

IRS email is managed based on the role of the individual in the organization. However, if the email serves as significant documentation for record sets outside of the email system, such as case files, project files, etc., the email must be associated with the record set outside of the email system.

What if the message does not qualify as a record?

Delete email that is not a record when no longer needed.

Common Questions about Electronic Messaging

What is a record?

A record is anything you create or receive related to your daily work activities.

Are there examples of the types of messages I should not save?

Messages that are not substantive in nature do not require saving. Examples include:

  • "The meeting is about to start. Are you joining?"

  • "Do you have time for a quick call before the briefing?"

These routine notifications and reminders are short-term messages with no substantive business information. As such, messages like these do not contain information that needs to be preserved beyond the instant messaging session.

What is instant messaging?

Instant Messaging ("IM" or "IMing" ) is the exchange of messages in real-time through a software application. Generally included in the IM software is the ability to easily see whether an individual is available. Instant messaging differs from email because it provides instant feedback.

Can I use instant messaging to send SBU data?

Yes, instant messaging systems are acceptable and convenient methods of automatic encrypted file transmission, but do not supersede policy or work processes for certain programs and offices. To transmit a document from within an IM, click the page-and-paper-clip icon in the upper right corner of your conversation with another user. Follow the instructions to locate the file you wish to transmit. The other party must accept the request for the file to be transferred. Always remember to Think Data Protection. Only access or share SBU data or PII with an IRS employee who has a business need for the information. Do not forget that a response to the sending of the instant message could be a federal record and will need to be saved.

What type of messages should NOT be sent using instant messaging?

Employees should not use electronic messaging systems to engage in discussions involving policy matters, business decisions, or documentation of other mission-critical functions. This may result in the creation of a federal record that requires preservation beyond the closeout of the instant messaging session.

If I use electronic messaging for work, am I creating federal records?

In almost all circumstances, the daily work performed by federal employees (permanent and seasonal) and contractors involves receipt or creation of federal record information.

What is the Conversation History folder and where is it located?

The IRS instant messaging system keeps a record of instant message conversations in the Office Outlook Conversation History folder. The Conversation History folder is located in MS Outlook on the left side beneath the Deleted Items folder (just above the Junk Email folder).

If I create or receive a record using instant messaging, how do I save it?

If you create or receive a record using instant messaging, before exiting your conversation, you should save it by selecting Ctrl + S. The message will be placed in your Conversation History folder, you may move it to other folders within Outlook.

Is instant messaging the same as text messaging? Am I allowed to use text messaging?

Instant messaging via your laptop is NOT the same as using text messaging on your BlackBerry (BB) or smartphone. In accordance with IRM 10.8.1.4.1.18.2, Telecommunication Devices, the use of text messaging with government-furnished BlackBerrys or cellular phones to conduct official business is prohibited, except in emergency situations when other forms of communication are unavailable.

Is the electronic messaging policy a new requirement?

No. There has always been a requirement for employees to save and appropriately manage records they create.

May I send an instant message to non IRS partners/stakeholders?

No. IRS’s instant messaging application is an internal application that cannot be used to communicate with others outside of the Service.

Who do I contact if I need help saving my instant message or have questions about records management training or other support options?

Please contact *Records Management if you require training or need assistance with any records-related aspect of using instant messaging.