11.3.12 Designation of Documents


  1. This section provides procedures for designation of documents and guidance for determining the releasability of these documents.

  2. These instructions are limited to non-national security official documents intended for internal use.

  3. The designations that are available for use pursuant to these instructions are as follows:

    • Limited Official Use and

    • Official Use Only

  4. These instructions do not apply to documents designated as the following:

    • Top Secret

    • Secret

    • Confidential or

    • Any designation that originates outside the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)


    For instructions relating to materials that are designated for national security or foreign policy purposes, see IRM 1.9.3,Safeguarding National Security Information.

  5. This section also contains instructions and restrictions on the use of personal identifiers in printed materials and the inclusion of return information in instructions.

  6. Instructions contained in IRM 11.3.7,Freedom of Information Reading Room Operations, and IRM 11.3.13,Freedom of Information Act are closely related to this section. A reading of those sections may be helpful in understanding and providing perspective for the instructions in this section.

  7. See IRM 10.2,Physical Security Program, for instructions establishing the minimum standards required to administratively control, transmit, store, and ultimately destroy material determined to require administrative control (designation) per instructions contained in this section.

Background Documents

  1. The Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC §552, requires that agencies shall make available to the public information contained in agency records, except for matters that are identified as exempt from the Act. To be considered Official Use Only (OUO), a document must be considered exempt from the FOIA at the time it is designated.

  2. The Privacy Act of 1974, USC §552a(e)(10), provides that agencies will:

    • "...establish appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to ensure the security and confidentiality of records and to protect against any anticipated threats or hazards to their security or integrity which could result in substantial harm, embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to any individual on whom information is maintained."

  3. 44 USC 1902 provides that:

    • "Government publications, except those determined by their issuing components to be required for official use only or for strictly administration or operational purposes which have no public interest or educational value and publications classified for reasons of national security shall be made available to depository libraries through the facilities of the Superintendent of Documents for public information."

  4. Authority to classify information that is not entitled to protection in the interest of national security under appropriate Executive Order, but which requires protection, is provided by Treasury Directive 71–10, Department of the Treasury Security Manual.

  5. Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised) designates the officials authorized to approve the marking of the legend "Official Use Only."

The Intent of Designation

  1. The primary intention of designating a document "Official Use Only" is to prevent the automatic distribution to the public of printed materials that should not be subject to such distribution.

  2. The designation system promotes uniformity by precluding the possibility that a document could be withheld from the public by one office while being released by another.

  3. The identification of a small proportion of IRS printed materials as "Official Use Only" facilitates the ready release to the public of the majority of printed materials that are not designated.

  4. The legends "Limited Official Use" and " Official Use Only" should act to alert employees that the release of the document is prohibited, except by an authorized official acting in accordance with the provisions of this section or other authorization.

  5. The legends "Limited Official Use" and " Official Use Only" are internal instructions that have no effect with regard to any member of the public who may have received such documents.

  6. This section also includes restrictions to prevent the abuse of over designation and provisions for the dedesignation of records containing information that no longer requires protection.

Limited Official Use

  1. Materials that warrant designation as "Official Use Only " but that contain information of such important, delicate or sensitive nature that they should be treated confidentially, and restricted to those officials and their immediate subordinates, who need to know such information, shall have "Limited Official Use" imprinted on the top and bottom on each page.

  2. The designation "Limited Official Use" shall be used only on materials intended for use by the highest officials within the IRS or addressed to officials of the Department of the Treasury.

  3. Materials so marked shall be handled and transmitted as prescribed in IRM 10.2.1, Physical Security.

  4. Documents may be designated "Limited Official Use" only by the Commissioner.

Official Use Only

  1. The limited distribution of IRS documents, such as reports of investigation, memorandums and correspondence, and the normal safeguarding of IRS files as required by law to prevent unauthorized disclosures, make administrative designation unnecessary.

  2. The "Official Use Only" designation may be used on only four types of documents.

    1. Printed materials intended for internal use, See IRM

    2. Memoranda from Headquarters officials to a group of field officials containing "Official Use Only" instructions.

    3. Documents formerly designated "Limited Official Use," See IRM

    4. Tolerance and criteria portions of implementing agreements, Memorandums of Understanding, or their equivalent for exchange of tax returns and return information with State tax agencies.

  3. The absence of an "Official Use Only" designation from any document other than the four types of documents described above does not indicate that the document may be released to the public, but merely means that its releasability depends upon other factors.

  4. The "Official Use Only" designation and variants thereof shall be effective only when applied in accordance with this section, by officials authorized by Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised), and with the concurrence of the Office of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure when such concurrence is required by this section.

  5. A former designation, "For Official IRS Use Only," is no longer used. Any documents that retain the designation " For Official IRS Use Only" should be considered as designated "Official Use Only."

  6. The use of pseudo-designations such as "internal use only, " "confidential," or "eyes only" has no official standing. Documents so marked are to be treated as if they were not designated.

  7. Use of the "Official Use Only" designation, if not approved by a Delegation Order 89 official, is the same as nondesignation.

Guidelines for Designation

  1. These guidelines are intended to assist officials making recommendations for the administrative designation of documents covered by this section.

  2. Aside from the obvious requirement that all actions must be strictly in accordance with all applicable provisions of law, it is stressed that these are guidelines and not rules that must be followed in every instance. Their applicability must be considered in the light of the specific circumstances involved in any situation.

  3. The overall objective is that the greatest amount of information be made available to the public whenever possible. Guidelines should not be applied in a manner that would produce a result contrary to this objective.

  4. The Freedom of Information Act requires:

    1. Information contained in Government records be made available to the public and

    2. No information can be withheld from the public unless it is subject to one of the exemptions or exclusions provided by the Act.

  5. Consideration must be given to whether release of records would be consistent with Policy Statement 11-13, Freedom of Information Act Requests, and Chief Counsel Directives Manual (CCDM): 33.1.3, Releasing Legal Advice to the Public. IRS should reach the judgment that their use of a discretionary FOIA exemption is on sound footing, both factually and legally, and that any discretionary decision to release information protected under the FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial, and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information.

  6. Officials evaluating material for designation or dedesignation should be alert to opportunities for waiving FOIA exemptions not institutionally adopted under Policy Statement 11-13, Freedom of Information Act Requests, thereby avoiding the designation of documents, and permitting the IRS to operate in a manner that is as open to public scrutiny as is possible.

  7. Materials should not be withheld from the public simply because they may be subject to misinterpretation, because there is no apparent public benefit to their release, to avoid embarrassment, or to hide instances of errors or wrong-doing by IRS officials or employees.

  8. The fact that information may be generally known, although not published, does not necessarily mean that public release of the information would not interfere with tax administration. A limited disclosure previously made by the IRS will not cause the IRS to forego the defense of such materials, but a substantial distribution may no longer have its protection defended.

Printed Materials

  1. Any IRS materials that have been printed and distributed may be assumed to be intended for public release if they have not been designated " Official Use Only."

  2. For the purposes of this section, printed materials include materials that have been reproduced by any method other than office copying machines.

  3. The designation of printed documents is part of the preparation process and the "Official Use Only" designation should be included in the printed version of the document rather than subsequently applied. Omission of the "Official Use Only" designation may trigger the automatic public distribution of documents.

  4. The originating office is responsible for designating the designation of material submitted for reproduction. This information should be specified in item 7 on Form 1767, Publication Services Requisition, by the originator for materials other than Internal Management Documents.

  5. For Internal Management Documents, the originator will complete item 10 on Form 2061, Document Clearance Record.

  6. The document being issued, Form 1767, or Form 2061, or a statement in lieu of one of the foregoing must be signed by an official authorized by Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised).

  7. All designated materials must be reviewed by the Office of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure. Such materials should be clearly noted as to whether the GLD review is for designation only or whether review is also for "disclosure issues."

  8. The originator places the "Official Use Only" designation on the cover page only unless camera copy. In that case, it must be on each page. When the forms specified above are properly completed, Publishing Services will then imprint "Official Use Only" on subsequent pages unless camera copy.

  9. Data Processing materials and Training materials are subject to special consideration.


    See subsections and .4.

  10. Originators of materials being produced outside of Headquarters are responsible for ascertaining the adequacy of local procedures to accomplish results similar to the above.

Headquarters Memoranda and Faxes

  1. The Freedom of Information Act provides that "administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff" be available for public inspection. See 5 USC §552(a)(2). This requirement, which is the basis for making the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) available to the public, also extends to instructions to staff when issued on an emergency basis as memoranda or faxes prior to inclusion in the IRM. See IRM 1.11.1,Internal Management Documents, for information on posting interim guidance to the Electronic Reading Room at irs.gov.

  2. In order to be subject to this section, a document must:

    • Be in memorandum or fax format

    • Be originated by a Headquarters official

    • Be addressed to a group of field officials or Headquarters officials

    • Contain instructions of a general or continuing nature that are to be followed by the recipients and

    • Be required to be incorporated in a future issuance of the IRM (including ADP Handbooks)


    Documents that relate to the handling of specific cases or instances and that serve no continuing instructional purpose are not subject to this section.

  3. Absence of the "Official Use Only" designation does not imply that they are to be released to the public.

  4. Memoranda that are subject to (2) above and that include " Official Use Only" information are to be designated by completing Item 10 on Form 2061. An official authorized to designate by Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised) must approve the Form 2061 or other documentation in lieu thereof.

  5. Concurrence from the appropriate office of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure must be obtained before issuance of the memorandum.

  6. If all of the material in a memorandum can be protected, the designation "Official Use Only" must be shown on each page of the memorandum. The memorandum may have attachments that are designated, partially designated, or nondesignated on their own merits.

  7. A nondesignated memorandum may have attachments that are designated or partially designated. Each page of such memorandum will be marked "Note: all or some of the attachments are designated Official Use Only." Such memorandums should be prepared with a courtesy copy to Governmental Liaison and Disclosure, for determination on partial inclusion in the Reading Room file.

  8. If the memorandum includes both protected information and meaningful information that is not appropriate for protection, the content must be evaluated on a line-by-line basis. Each line to be protected will have the symbol # shown to the right of the line. All pages must carry the designation "Any line marked with a # is for Official Use Only."


    This designation will be shown on each page, even though the specific page may not contain any protected material.

  9. Pages protected in their entirety by the "Official Use Only" designation and pages partially protected by the symbol # should not be intermingled within one memorandum or within one attachment.

  10. If some pages in a memorandum are partially designated using the symbol # and other pages require protection for their complete content, the latter pages should carry the designation "any line marked with a # is for Official Use Only" and the symbol # should be shown to the right of every line on those pages.

  11. Disclosure Managers processing FOIA requests for Headquarters memoranda subject to this section that are found in field office files may release (after considering appropriate FOIA exemptions) the requested items in accordance with the following guidelines:

    1. Memoranda that are not designated may be released if the issue date is later than December 6, 1979.

    2. The nondesignated portion of memoranda protected by the # symbol may be released regardless of issue date.

  12. Disclosure Managers should not deny FOIA requests for materials subject to this section solely based on their designation, since the nature of emergency instructions would tend to produce designation having only temporary validity.

    1. Prior to denying requests, Disclosure Managers should telephone Governmental Liaison and Disclosure Headquarters to determine if the materials have been dedesignated or may now be dedesignated.

    2. Cases that cannot be promptly resolved by telephone should be transferred to Governmental Liaison and Disclosure Headquarters for resolution.

Data Processing Manuals

  1. Data processing instructions frequently must be followed by employees in a step-by-step fashion that makes it impossible in some instances to segregate designated and public portions of an instruction into separate publications. Accordingly, certain data processing instructions will be prepared in two-versions, as follows:

    1. Those Automated Data Processing (ADP) Chapters, ADP Handbooks and Supplements subject to the two-version production technique will be selected by the originating division.

    2. Each page in the selected issuance will be marked with the designation "Any line marked with a # is for Official Use Only," regardless of whether the particular page contains any protected material or not.

    3. Any material to be protected will be identified by the symbol # placed to the right of the line on which it appears.

    4. For internal use, the issuance will be printed on white paper and will include all lines.

    5. For public use, the issuance will be posted to www.irs.gov in redacted form.


    The originator must inform Media and Publications on Form 1767 to prepare a redacted electronic version for www.irs.gov. The public version will have all text marked with the # sign removed and replaced with some clear marking or symbol that shows the extent of the redactions.

  2. The designation of data processing materials as "Official Use Only" or "Any line marked with a # is for Official Use Only" requires the concurrence of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure.


    Due to the highly technical nature of their content, data processing materials, such as Computer Program Books and Systems Acceptability Testing drafts may be designated by officials authorized by Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised) without the concurrence of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure.

  3. The designation of data processing materials serves four objectives.

    1. To protect "Official Use Only" information from other divisions that may be reflected in data processing instructions.

    2. To preclude taxpayers from altering their filing practices or avoiding the payment of taxes by protecting tolerances and criteria, details of computer analysis, and specific identity of all items that may or may not be transcribed.

    3. To prevent invasions of individual privacy by protecting computer access codes, reduce the harm of inadvertent disclosures of records containing tax return information, or other highly confidential personal information by protecting the definitions of data processing codes.

    4. To prevent interference in the computer processing for purposes of fraud or disruption by protecting data processing codes, routines and safety and security provisions.

  4. In applying the foregoing objectives, the intent should be to deny public access to definitional materials and extensive listings of data processing codes, such as might prove useful to a person attempting to abuse such information. Designation should not be given to listings for information that do not clearly undermine the integrity of the computer system itself (e.g., most of Document 6209,ADP/IDRS Handbook is available at www.irs.gov).

  5. It is not intended that every mention of an otherwise innocuous code be deleted from every public document in which it might appear, since such occasional disclosure of limited information would not permit a reconstruction of the extensive nature necessary to threaten our computer processes. Moreover, individual requesters are generally entitled to receive records that pertain to them and to receive an adequate explanation of their content. It is current Service policy to provide the public instructions for reading transcripts when such transcripts are not self-evident.

Training Material

  1. Training materials may require designation for three reasons.

    1. They may repeat designated data processing information and thus must be designated in order to protect the original materials.

    2. They may include original information not appearing elsewhere, that requires protection for the same reasons as law enforcement or data processing materials.

    3. They may require designation in order to protect the integrity of the training process.


    Instructor Guides and related materials may be designated in order to prevent students from obtaining advance knowledge of test questions and answers, discussion problems, and other training techniques whose effectiveness would be diminished by becoming known prior to employment.

  2. Training materials proposed for designation normally require the concurrence of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure. However, the proposed or current designation of ADP training materials developed in the campuses should be reviewed by the servicing Disclosure Manager and approved by the appropriate Campus Director.

  3. In order to provide the greatest flexibility, the following types of designation may be used on training materials:

    1. If all or most of the material is from designated sources, the entire training publication will be designated "Official Use Only. " This designation will be shown on the cover of the document and printed at the bottom of each page.

    2. If certain chapters or units must be protected, classify these portions "Official Use Only," marking all pages in those chapters or units. The cover of the document should contain a statement to the effect that "Note: Chapter(s) --- are designated for ''Official Use Only''" .

    3. If certain pages within a chapter must be protected, classify those pages "Official Use Only," marking only those pages containing material that must be protected. The cover of the document should contain a statement to the effect that "Page(s) --- are designated for ''Official Use Only''" .

    4. If certain lines within a page must be protected, those lines will be marked with the symbol #. The bottom of the page will be marked, " Any line marked # is for ''Official Use Only''." The cover of the document should contain a statement, "Lines marked # on Pages --- are for ''Official Use Only''" .

Special Adaptations

  1. Special circumstances may require special adaptations of the " Official Use Only" designations as have been indicated for training materials in IRM

  2. Other special adaptations could include such devices as having all "Official Use Only" material printed below a line, printed in a different color or different style type, or printed in a shaded area.

  3. Documents using such special adaptations must be designated " Official Use Only" on their face and contain a clear explanation to permit an uninformed user of the document to readily differentiate between the protected and public portions of the text.

  4. Special adaptations of the "Official Use Only" designation require the concurrence of the Director, Office of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure.

Guidelines for Dedesignation

  1. When reviewing a document that has not been released to the public to determine if it can now be dedesignated, consideration should be given to whether the original designation was proper. The material may have been designated in error and should now be dedesignated.

  2. The availability of information to the public pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act has been an evolutionary process in that the trend has been toward increasing the types and amounts of materials that should be released. A document that was correctly designated may warrant dedesignation because it can no longer be protected because of changing FOIA standards.

  3. The need to protect the information may no longer exist.

    1. Completed actions are less likely to require protection than proposed actions; generally, the older an issuance is and the less it relates to current operation, the less likely it is to require protection.

    2. An issuance that has long been out of date may nevertheless continue to contain information that relates to current operations and warrants protection.

Limited Official Use

  1. The Commissioner may alter, reduce or declassify "Limited Official Use" documents as follows:

    1. Additional officials may be designated to receive the materials, while retaining the "Limited Official Use" designation.

    2. The "Limited Official Use" designation may be reduced to "Official Use Only," discontinuing the need for special handling and permitting wider distribution within the IRS of materials that should continue to be withheld from the public.

    3. Segregated portions of the document may be released to the public pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request while retaining the " Limited Official Use" designation for the document as a whole.

    4. The document may be completely dedesignated by being released to the public or by the issuance of a memorandum pursuant to (3) below.


    See also Treasury Directive TD 71–10.

  2. The Commissioner may require appropriate IRS officials to evaluate and recommend the reduced designation or dedesignation of documents in specific instances or as part of a periodic program to declassify "Limited Official Use" documents.

  3. In order to discontinue special handling, officials who have received "Limited Official Use" documents will be advised by memorandum when such documents are reduced to "Official Use Only" or completely dedesignated and will manually correct the designation if the documents are retained.

Official Use Only

  1. Authority to declassify "Official Use Only" documents is specified in Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised).

  2. A request for a document pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act is the equivalent of a request to declassify the document.

  3. The release of a document to a member of the public will generally constitute the dedesignation of that document unless special circumstances exist.

  4. IRS employees may rely upon a formal release to the public of a designated document pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act as authority for any subsequent releases of the identical document.

  5. The dedesignation of a document does not require that it be reprinted solely to produce a version free of the "Official Use Only" designation if normal IRS needs do not otherwise require re-issuance of the document. However, any future editions of the document that may be produced should no longer carry the "Official Use Only" designation.

  6. Generally, instructions will not be issued to recipients of designated documents to delete the "Official Use Only" designation when it is no longer applicable since such documents would be so widely distributed throughout the IRS as to preclude effective compliance with such instructions.

  7. Most printed materials subject to the "Official Use Only " designation are subject to a continuous review process to ensure they are kept current, and are periodically updated or reprinted as necessary.

    1. Such review process, updating and re-issuance or reprinting, should include consideration of the continuing need for designation.

    2. Documents are not to be designated "Official Use Only" merely because a prior edition was designated but must be evaluated on their own merits in accordance with current standards.

Special Releases

  1. The expeditious transaction of official Government business requires the occasional release outside the Department of the Treasury of documents designated "Official Use Only" under circumstances that would not constitute a general release to members of the public.

  2. This section intends to differentiate between such special releases and a general release to a member of the public that would constitute a dedesignation of the document, and thereby provide for the continued protection of designated information.

  3. Designated documents may be released pursuant to this section only to the extent that such documents do not include information whose disclosure is prohibited by statute, including IRC §6103 and 5 USC §552a or the release is allowable pursuant to the appropriate statute.

  4. Documents designated "Limited Official Use" may be furnished, or their contents disclosed, to persons outside the Department of the Treasury only by the Commissioner.

  5. "Official Use Only" information may be released to IRS contractors but such contracts need to conform to the requirements of IRM,Contracts Involving Disclosure of Sensitive But Unclassified Information (SBU) or formerly Official Use Only Documents. To the extent that Privacy Act (5 USC §552a) or IRC §6103 protected information is involved, see IRM, Contract Compliance Reviews.

  6. Release of "Official Use Only" information to the Government Accountability Office is covered in IRM 11.3.23, Disclosure to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Authority for Special Releases

  1. Documents designated "Official Use Only" may be furnished or their contents disclosed to persons outside the Department of the Treasury (e.g., to Federal agencies as part of IRS' FedFed activity and to state agencies as part of tax administration partnering) only with the permission of officials authorized to classify or declassify such documents by Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised) or an appropriate functional official (could be part of a Memorandum of Understanding or other such cooperative agreement covering agency partnering efforts).

  2. A designated document may not be released outside the Treasury Department, such as to the Department of Justice or the U.S. Attorneys, in connection with a tax case or similar circumstances without the knowledge and concurrence of the official(s) of the function that created the document. Subsequently, a government attorney may release, as appropriate, such "Official Use Only" information in discovery or litigation.


    Chief Counsel Attorneys should secure the concurrence of the official(s) of the function that created the "Official Use Only" document before releasing.

  3. National Research Program data (formerly called Taxpayer Compliance Measurement Program (TCMP) data) may contain information of a highly confidential nature, the improper disclosure of which would be seriously detrimental to fulfillment of the IRS' mission. In order that National Research Program/TCMP data not be improperly divulged, all disclosures of National Research Program/TCMP data, regardless of the source of the request or the type of the data requested, require the approval of the Head of the Operating/Functional Division having subject matter responsibility and of the Director, Research, Analysis, and Statistics of Income.

  4. Any special release under this subsection must be conditioned on the recipient's agreement and ability to use, disseminate (usually will only be to agency employees with a need to know for official duties), and protect the designated information in accordance with IRS requirements.

Congressional Requests

  1. Requests from Representatives and Senators or members of their staffs acting in their own capacity will be processed in a manner consistent with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and will be given every consideration that would be appropriate to any member of the public.

  2. Requests that are made on behalf of committees and subcommittees of the Congress for an official purpose are made pursuant to the oversight and investigatory powers of the Congress.

    1. Designated documents may be made available to committees or subcommittees pursuant to such requests.

    2. The recipients should be advised of the restricted availability of designated documents in order to preclude any inadvertent release such as might result from inclusion in a public report.

  3. In order to preclude imposing unnecessary administrative burdens upon a congressional committee and to avoid the embarrassment of requesting protection for out-of-date materials, consideration should be given to the need for continued designation of "Official Use Only" documents being made available.

Foreign Government Requests

  1. The Large and Mid-Size Business (LMSB) Operating Division (OD) is the main point of contact and coordination for requests from representatives of foreign governments for IRS records and publications.

  2. These instructions do not apply to returns and return information, disclosure of which is also under the authority of LMSB as competent authority and discussed in IRM 11.3.25, Disclosure to Foreign Countries Pursuant to Tax Treaties.

  3. IRS employees performing training or briefings or guiding visitations for foreign officials may (with the prior concurrence of LMSB) make available designated documents as necessary to accomplish the purposes of such sessions, providing such documents remain on IRS premises or within IRS control and are not copied or removed.

  4. Releases of designated documents to foreign governments, other than permitted by (2) above, require authorization from LMSB and must, in addition, have the concurrence of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure.

  5. Requests from foreign governments should be carefully evaluated by LMSB personnel. Release should be consistent with the provisions and intent of any tax treaty with the requesting government.

  6. Inasmuch as designated documents are not available to members of the public, any proposed release of such documents would provide to a foreign government information that is necessary to withhold from U.S. citizens. Such a proposal requires careful consideration to ensure that the result is clearly warranted and defensible.

Academic and Professional Organizations Requests

  1. The IRS seeks to cooperate with responsible representatives of universities, bar associations, accountants' institutes, and similar organizations devoted to the knowledge of and the improvement of tax administration.

    1. However, such organizations do not have any legal status that would permit a greater access to IRS documents than would be granted to any member of the public acting independently.

    2. Consequently, the release of designated documents to academic and professional organizations would constitute the dedesignation of those documents, except as provided in (2) or (3) below.

  2. The IRS may engage the services of specialists on a consultant basis for tax administration purposes.

    1. Such persons may have access to designated materials to the extent necessary for their duties.

    2. However, they do not have a right to retain such documents or use them for other than IRS purposes.


      See IRM 11.3.24,Disclosures to Contractors.

  3. The IRS may contract with academic and professional organizations to perform studies or provide other services for tax administration purposes.

  4. Access may be provided to designated documents in furtherance of the service performed, provided the contract or a supplementary agreement specifies that the organization does not have a right to retain such documents or use them for other than IRS purposes, and the IRS has exclusive rights to any materials that reflect or are produced from the designated documents.


    See IRM 11.3.24, Disclosures to Contractors.

Employee Organizations Requests

  1. Designated documents may be released to employees pursuing personnel matters, their representatives, and employee organizations to the extent provided for by existing agreements or authorizations and in the interests of the IRS without constituting a general release to the public.

  2. Such releases should call the attention of the recipient to the limited purposes of the release and request that the recipient observe the restricted availability of the document.

Other Special Releases

  1. Officials encountering circumstances that might warrant a special release of designated documents other than the foregoing should request assistance and advice from Governmental Liaison and Disclosure.

Protection of Return Information

  1. Return information protected by IRC §6103 , which may or may not include the identity of taxpayers, may have to appear in printed form under some circumstances such as to fulfill training needs, coordinate enforcement programs, or notify employees of legal, technical or procedural positions.

    1. Similarly, the identity of other persons, such as IRS employees and personal information concerning them, protected by 5 USC §552 and/or USC §552a, may occasionally have to appear in printed form.

    2. Such occasions should be rare and must be supported by compelling need.


      See IRM 11.3.22, Disclosure to Federal Officers and Employees for Tax Administration Purposes, for a discussion of the use of IRC §6103 protected information in printed materials.

  2. Printed materials including such identities and information must be designated "Official Use Only."

  3. The principle of limiting the distribution of such identities and information to employees who have a "need to know" would discourage their inclusion in printed materials that by their nature are expected to have wide distribution.

  4. When the inclusion of such identities and information is unavoidable, consideration must be given to controlling the distribution of such materials to avoid possession by employees who have no "need to know. "

  5. Prior to the issuance of these instructions, it was difficult to readily identify instances in that designated material contained statutorily protected return information. Recipients were, therefore, not always aware of the level of protection these materials required.

  6. Accordingly, these instructions provide for the following:

    • Avoiding the inclusion of protected information in printed materials

    • Designating those materials that must include such information

    • Limiting their distribution on a "need to know" basis and

    • Specifically labeling such information whenever it occurs in printed matter

  7. These instructions do not apply to names of firms or individuals who do not appear in the context of taxpayers, as part of return information or as personal information protected by 5 USC §552.

  8. The following are examples of names that may appear in printed materials in some other context and are not subject to protection:

    • Manufacturers of equipment used by IRS

    • Issuers of money orders

    • Names of return preparer firms requiring special processing

    • Names of firms that serve notices of levies or other legal documents on behalf of the IRS

Avoidance and Mitigation

  1. The appearance of identities and return information in printed materials should be avoided whenever it is possible to do so. If it is impractical to avoid the use of such information, an attempt should be made to mitigate the problem by limiting the amount of information included.

  2. Whenever possible, the use of actual return information should be avoided by creating fictional examples of similar situations that contain neither the identity of the taxpayer nor any information that could be considered attributable to a particular taxpayer. Such examples would not require any designation. Acceptable fictional entity data is published by the Learning and Education function. See IRM 6.410.1, Learning and Education - Learning and Education Policy.

  3. If the use of fictional examples is not consistent with the purpose for which the information is to be disseminated, examples may be found in "public records." The IRS has confined the disclosure of public record information to tax information that has been made a matter of public record in connection with tax administration activity only. See IRM,Other Information Available to the Public.

    1. When using such examples, care must be exercised to include only such information as actually appeared in the public record (as defined above), to extract the information from an official copy of the public record, and to cite or refer to the public record.

    2. The Office of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure or Chief Counsel should be consulted regarding any questions with respect to the relevance or application of the public record exception.

    3. Such examples would not require any designation.

  4. If neither fictional examples nor examples from public records are appropriate, consideration should be given to the use of composite examples in which components are drawn from three or more cases (in a national or state level example), rendering the result as statistical data precluding the identification of any taxpayer. Such examples would not require any designation.

  5. The Statistics of Income function can provide guidance in formulating such statistical compilations.

  6. In the absence of any other alternative, actual case data may be used provided the materials are distributed only to those having a need to know.

    1. The information provided should be the minimum necessary for the purpose used.

    2. The identity and any potentially identifying characteristics should be omitted if possible.


    It is important to realize that minimizing the information presented and omitting identifying factors does not deprive return information of its statutory protection. Such information must be designated.

  7. In choosing actual cases to be presented, emphasis must be placed upon selecting the best example for the intended purpose, while avoiding information pertaining to persons of notoriety or prominence. Restraint should be exercised to avoid the inclusion of anecdotal material not contributing to the effectiveness of the example.

  8. See IRM 11.3.22, Disclosure to Federal Officers and Employees for Tax Administration Purposes, for a complete discussion regarding use of tax data in printed materials and training.

Limiting Distribution

  1. Once the determination has been made that the printed material must include return information, taxpayer identities, or similar information, every effort must be made to limit its distribution to employees having a need to know in accordance with the provisions of IRM 10.2, Physical Security Program.

  2. "Official Use Only" material, although not available to the public, may nevertheless have wide distribution within the IRS. Return information and taxpayer identities should only be included in other designated printed materials if the extent to which a need to know is roughly equivalent to the level of distribution planned for the issuance.

  3. Return information and taxpayer identities should be included in "Official Use Only " material only if the information is needed for an extended period of time (as differentiated from a one time instruction) in most of the offices receiving distribution (as differentiated from information relevant to a single area or to several territory offices) and must be necessary to a considerable portion of those employees who have access or to an indeterminate number of employees (as differentiated from a small number of readily identifiable employees).

  4. Designated printed materials may be produced in limited numbered editions so that the function issuing the material may control distribution as needed.

  5. Consideration should be given to splitting information so that general instructions appear in a printed portion and taxpayer identities are separately distributed by memorandum.


    A procedure may appear in the IRM but the identities of taxpayers subject to the procedure are sent to each affected office by a memorandum containing only the names that relate to that office.

  6. Whenever return information or taxpayer identities have appeared in printed issuances, care must be taken to ensure the prompt revision, obsolescing or other disposition of such issuance as soon as the information is no longer needed.

  7. Any electronic delivery of material containing "Official Use Only" information or statutorily protected information must conform to statutory requirements (e.g., only available to agency employees with a need to know for official duties) as well as computer security standards.

Designation and Labeling

  1. Any return information or taxpayer identity that has not become public information (such as revealed by IRS in connection with tax administration in court) or personal information subject to 5 USC §552a (except as available pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act) must be designated " Official Use Only" if it is to appear in a printed document.

  2. Additionally, the document must include a specific statement alerting users to the nature of the information contained, such as the following:

    1. "This document (or this page) contains return information, the dissemination of which should be limited to IRS employees with a need to know. Further accesses or disclosure may subject the responsible employee to the criminal sanctions of IRC §§7213 and/or 7213A" .

    2. "This document (or this page) contains personal information, the dissemination of which should be limited to IRS employees with a need to know. Further disclosure may subject the responsible employee to criminal penalties pursuant to 5 USC §552a(i)1" .

  3. The applicable statement should appear on the cover of bound documents, and on each page containing such material if such pages are separately produced or designed for removal from the document.

  4. A similar statement should appear on any transmittal sheet or covering letter associated with such material.

Review and Authorization

  1. Return information, taxpayer identities, and personal information protected by the 5 USC §552a may only be included in printed materials when authorized by officials having designation authority pursuant to Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised).

  2. Such materials must be reviewed by and have the concurrence of Governmental Liaison and Disclosure, Office of Disclosure prior to printing.

Designating Field Documents

  1. Delegation Order No. 89 (as revised) specifies the field officials authorized to classify and declassify documents.

  2. Documents will be designated or dedesignated in accordance with the instructions provided by this section.

    1. Additionally, field officials should be guided by examples provided by Headquarters documents that have been designated.

    2. Generally, offices should protect only information that is similar to that being protected by Headquarters.

  3. Special care should be exercised in classifying or declassifying OD/FD/Campus Memorandums and Circulars. This is to ensure that the release or protection of these internal management issuances closely parallels the treatment accorded similar or related information in the IRM.

  4. Delegation Orders cannot be designated "Official Use Only " and are available to the public.

Review of Designated Field Documents

  1. Any documents proposed for designation as "Official Use Only" must be reviewed by the appropriate Disclosure Manager prior to issuance. This review responsibility does not usually extend to documents being prepared in field offices at the request of a Headquarters function for general issuance, although the Disclosure Manager may be called upon to assist or advise on the designation of such documents.

  2. The proposed or current designation of ADP training materials prepared in and printed under the direction of the campuses at the request of the Headquarters should be reviewed by the Disclosure Manager who services the campus and approved by the Campus Director. This designation review responsibility does not extend to documents other than ADP training materials.

  3. GLD Area Managers will review a sampling of designated documents as part of their periodic visitation program to field offices to ensure appropriateness of the designation and maintain uniformity within the area.

  4. Disclosure Managers will periodically review existing designated documents to establish their continued necessity and the appropriateness of the "Official Use Only" designation.

  5. If review in accordance with (3) or (4) above indicates that dedesignation is necessary, the responsible Disclosure Manager will advise the issuing authority accordingly.

  6. Each Disclosure Manager will ensure that reviews are properly controlled and documented on Disclosure's electronic system. Reviews in accordance with (3) and (4) above should be recorded.

Maintaining Current Nondesignated Internal Management Documents for Public Inspection

  1. All IRS functions will maintain for public inspection a complete current set of the following:

    • Their own Delegation Orders

    • Nondesignated memorandums and circulars

  2. Territory Managers will also maintain for public inspection a complete current set of the following:

    • Delegation Orders

    • Current nondesignated Memorandums and

    • Circulars, as are regularly distributed to their offices

  3. Area Managers will maintain for public inspection a complete current set of the following:

    • Their own Delegation Orders

    • Current nondesignated Memorandums and Circulars

    • Current Territory Delegation Orders

    • Nondesignated Territory Memorandums

    • Territory Circulars that are regularly distributed to their offices

  4. Campus Directors will maintain for public inspection a complete current set of the following:

    • Their own Delegation Orders

    • Nondesignated memorandums and circulars

  5. Requesters will be provided with copies of the issuances maintained for public inspection at the FOIA fees currently in effect.

  6. Materials maintained for public inspection are not subject to search fees.

Publications Intended for Sale

  1. In accordance with government wide policies, the IRS arranges for the sale of many publications through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office.

  2. Examples of publications in this category include:

    • IRS Data Book ( Publication 55-B)

    • Cumulative list of Exempt Organizations ( Publication 78)

    • Code of Federal Regulations (Title 26)

    • Internal Revenue Bulletins

    • Statistics of Income

    • Market Segment Specialization Program (MSSP) Guides

Press, Radio, TV and other Mass Media

  1. Publications intended for sale that may be subject to search or copying fees may be furnished, upon request to either a field office or Headquarters, free of charge to the following:

    • Newspapers

    • Radio and television stations

    • Commercial tax services and

    • Other mass media

  2. Requests for internal-use publications from such mass media will be referred to or coordinated with the Director, Communications and Liaison Division.

  3. Nothing in this section will be interpreted as limiting or interfering with the exercise of any rights established by the Freedom of Information Act.

Requests From the Public

  1. In accordance with the objectives of 44 USC Chapter 3, the IRS should not indiscriminately furnish publications free of charge to the general public where such publications are for sale by the Superintendent of Documents.

  2. Ordinarily, anyone requesting copies of such publications should be advised of the price and the most convenient sources of supply.

  3. Internal-use publications that are not administratively designated may be furnished to the general public whenever in the judgment of the officials having such authority it is in the best interests of the IRS to do so.

  4. Nothing in this section will be interpreted as limiting or interfering with the exercise of any rights established by the Freedom of Information Act.

Material Having a Restricted Release Date

  1. There are various materials (typewritten or printed) concerning IRS matters that are intended for eventual but not immediate public release. In such cases, the timing of the release to the public is of importance. New or revised tax forms and proposed major organizational changes are examples where the premature disclosure of IRS plans can lead to public misunderstanding and result in unnecessary and time-consuming inquiries.

  2. In cases where it is important to avoid premature release of such information, the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, or appropriate functional official will authorize the stamping of a cautionary legend (in approximately 12-point type) on each page of appropriate material, as follows:

    1. "Restricted Release Date. This material should not be disclosed until authorized by [originating office]."

  3. The "Restricted Release Date" stamp is to be impressed only on internal use documents and should not be placed on the actual material that will be released to the public.


    In transmitting a proposed new or revised tax form to campuses for mailing, the covering transmittal would be stamped but the forms, of course, would not bear the stamp.

  4. Material bearing the "Restricted Release Date" stamp may not be made available or disclosed to the public (including mass media) except upon authorization by the originating office.

  5. The use of the "Restricted Release Date" procedure does not preclude the release of records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, unless determined to be subject to a valid exemption from the disclosure provisions of that Act.

Selection or Construction of Names

  1. IRS printed materials such as Manual instructions and training guides, whether designated or nondesignated, frequently require the inclusion of fictional names and addresses in illustrations or hypothetical discussions. Such names and addresses must be selected or constructed in a manner that will avoid potential embarrassment to the IRS, possible harm to individuals, businesses or communities, or the likelihood of being offensive to anyone.


    See IRM 1.11.2, Internal Revenue Manual (IRM), as a reference.

  2. Names and addresses that may not be used include:

    1. Any name or address that may easily be mistaken for or associated with a real person or place.

    2. Any name or address that may be associated with any prominent person, living or dead, from the political, scientific, entertainment, sports, or other fields.

    3. Any name or address that may have an ethnic or racial identification.


      A name having an ethnic or racial identification may be used if necessary to illustrate an instruction that depends upon the use of that name, such as how to construct a Name Control, how to file records, or how to transliterate from a foreign alphabet.

    4. Any name or address that may be seen as casting reflections on the character or behavior of any person or of taxpayers in general, or that may be seen as whimsical or provocative.

    5. Any name that may be associated with a joke, anecdote, or anagram, or could detract from the efficient and businesslike presentation of the information involved.

  3. Names may be selected from a class of objects such as colors, animals, plants, the phonetic alphabet or common natural names such as Brown, Doe, Jones, and Smith. Good judgment should be used to avoid objects or combinations of objects that might suggest results contrary to the intent of this instruction.

  4. Business or corporate names must be similarly selected or constructed, and must avoid any possibility of suggesting to the reader any actual business organization.

  5. City names should similarly be neutral such as "Anytown, " or use the name of a major city having no unfavorable connotations in relation to the materials with that they are being associated. The use of obscure or unusual place names is to be avoided.