IRS privacy policy

Thank you for visiting the Internal Revenue Service's website, an official United States Government System, and reviewing our privacy policy. Our privacy policy explains how we handle the personally identifiable information (PII) that you provide to us when you visit us online to browse, obtain information, or conduct a transaction. PII includes information that is personal in nature and which might be used to identify you. The IRS uses this website to provide information about IRS services and programs. This website includes specific applications which provide more services or enable us to respond to specific questions from website visitors.

We won't collect personal information about you just because you visit this Internet site. Some applications on this website provide you with the opportunity to order forms, ask questions requiring a response, sign up for electronic newsletters, participate in focus groups and customer surveys, or learn the status of filed returns or anticipated payments. Using these services is voluntary and may require that you provide additional personal information to us. Providing the requested information implies your consent for us to use this data in order to respond to your specific request.

IRS privacy policy overview

All personal information you provide to us is voluntary. We may collect personal information about you (such as name, email address, Social Security number or other unique identifier) only if you specifically and knowingly provide it to us. We will use your information to process requests for certain services or information. Providing your information is generally voluntary, but if it is not provided, we might not be able to process your transaction. When information is required, we will let you know before we collect it.

We collect PII and other information only as necessary to administer our programs. The information you provide will be used only for that purpose. We do not sell the information collected at this site or any other information we collect. You do not have to give us personal information to visit our website.

Throughout our website, we will let you know if the information we ask you to provide is voluntary or required. By providing your personal information, you give us consent to use the information only for the purpose for which it was collected. We describe those purposes when we collect information. We will ask for your consent before using the information you provide for any secondary purpose other than those required by federal law.

The various inquiries made of individuals by the IRS during tax administration are part of a single process. Rather than include the same Privacy Act notice information in many forms or letters that are repeated contacts with the same individual about the same situation, the IRS has adopted an “umbrella” approach where the first contact of a series includes a notice that the individual may keep and that would apply to all future inquiries related to that situation. This approach spares the recipient from receiving repetitious and unnecessary identical notices.

Disclosure, Privacy Act, and Paperwork Reduction Act Notice

The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, the Privacy Act of 1974, and the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 require that when we ask you for information, we must first tell you our legal right to ask for the information, why we are asking for it, and how it will be used. We must also tell you what could happen if we do not receive it and whether your response is voluntary, required to obtain a benefit, or mandatory under the law.

This notice applies to all records and other material (in paper or electronic format) you file with us, including this tax return. It also applies to any questions we need to ask you so we can complete, correct, or process your return; figure your tax; and collect tax, interest, or penalties.

Our legal right to ask for information is Internal Revenue Code sections 6001, 6011, and 6012(a), and their regulations. They say that you must file a return or statement with us for any tax you are liable for. Your response is mandatory under these sections. Code section 6109 requires you to provide your identifying number on the return. This is so we know who you are and can process your return and other papers. You must fill in all parts of the tax form that apply to you. But you do not have to check the boxes for the Presidential Election Campaign Fund or for the third-party designee. You also do not have to provide your daytime phone number or email address.

You are not required to provide the information requested on a form that is subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act unless the form displays a valid OMB control number. Books or records relating to a form, or its instructions must be retained as long as their contents may become material in the administration of any Internal Revenue law.

We ask for tax return information to carry out the tax laws of the United States. We need it to figure and collect the right amount of tax.

If you do not file a return, do not provide the information we ask for, or provide fraudulent information, you may be charged penalties and be subject to criminal prosecution. We may also have to disallow the exemptions, exclusions, credits, deductions, or adjustments shown on the tax return. This could make the tax higher or delay any refund. Interest may also be charged.

Generally, tax returns and return information are confidential, as stated in Code section 6103. However, Code section 6103 allows or requires the Internal Revenue Service to disclose or give the information shown on your tax return to others as described in the Code. For example, we may disclose your tax information to the Department of Justice to enforce the tax laws, both civil and criminal, and to cities, states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. commonwealths or territories to carry out their tax laws. We may disclose your tax information to the Department of Treasury and contractors for tax administration purposes; and to other persons as necessary to obtain information needed to determine the amount of or to collect the tax you owe. We may disclose your tax information to the Comptroller General of the United States to permit the Comptroller General to review the Internal Revenue Service. We may disclose your tax information to committees of Congress; federal, state, and local child support agencies; and to other federal agencies for the purposes of determining entitlement for benefits or the eligibility for and the repayment of loans. We may also disclose this information to other countries under a tax treaty, to federal and state agencies to enforce federal nontax criminal laws, or to federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to combat terrorism.

Please keep this notice with your records. It may help you if we ask you for other information. If you have questions about the rules for filing and giving information, please call or visit any Internal Revenue Service office.

We welcome comments on forms

We try to create forms and instructions that can be easily understood. Often this is difficult to do because our tax laws are very complex. For some people with income mostly from wages, filling in the forms is easy. For others who have businesses, pensions, stocks, rental income, or other investments, it is more difficult.

If you have suggestions for making these forms simpler, we would be happy to hear from you. You can send us comments through IRS.gov/formscomments.  Or you can send your comments to Internal Revenue Service, Tax Forms and Publications Division, 1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR6526, Washington, DC 20224. Don’t send your return to this address. Instead, see the addresses at the end of these instructions.

Although we can't respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax forms and instructions.

Estimates of taxpayer burden

The following table shows burden estimates based on current statutory requirements as of November 2023 for taxpayers filing a 2023 Form 1040 or 1040SR tax return. Time spent and out-of-pocket costs are presented separately. Time burden is broken out by taxpayer activity, with recordkeeping representing the largest component. Out-of-pocket costs include any expenses incurred by taxpayers to prepare and submit their tax returns. Examples include tax return preparation and submission fees, postage and photocopying costs, and tax return preparation software costs. While these estimates don’t include burden associated with post-filing activities, IRS operational data indicate that electronically prepared and filed returns have fewer arithmetic errors, implying lower post-filing burden.

Reported time and cost burdens are national averages and don’t necessarily reflect a “typical” case. Most taxpayers experience lower than average burden, with taxpayer burden varying considerably by taxpayer type. For instance, the estimated average time burden for all taxpayers filing a Form 1040 or 1040SR is 13 hours, with an average cost of $270 per return. This average includes all associated forms and schedules, across all tax return preparation methods and taxpayer activities.

Within this estimate, there is significant variation in taxpayer activity. For example, nonbusiness taxpayers are expected to have an average burden of about 9 hours and $150, while business taxpayers are expected to have an average burden of about 24 hours and $560. Similarly, tax return preparation fees and other out-of-pocket costs vary extensively depending on the tax situation of the taxpayer, the type of software or professional preparer used, and the geographic location.

For more information on taxpayer burden see Pub. 5743. If you have comments concerning the time and cost estimates below, you can contact us at either one of the addresses shown under We Welcome Comments on Forms.

Estimated average taxpayer burden (in hours) for individuals by activity

Type of taxpayer Percentage of returns Total time* Record-keeping Tax planning Form completion and submission All other Average cost (dollars)**
All taxpayers 100% 13 6 2 4 1 $270
Nonbusiness taxpayers*** 72% 9 3 1 3 1 $150
Business taxpayers*** 28% 24 12 4 6 2 $560

*Detail may not add to total time due to rounding.
**Dollars rounded to the nearest $10.
***You are considered a “business” filer if you file one or more of the following with Form 1040 or 1040-SR: Schedule C, E, or F or Form 2106. You are considered a “nonbusiness” filer if you don’t file any of those schedules or forms with Form 1040 or 1040-SR.
 

The IRS is committed to protecting the privacy rights of America's taxpayers. These rights are protected by the Internal Revenue Code, the Privacy Act of 1974, the Freedom of Information Act, and IRS policies and practices. Visit the IRS Electronic Freedom of Information Act Reading Room for more information about these laws. We document much of our internal policy on these laws in IRM 10.5.1, Privacy Policy.

The Senior Agency Official for Privacy (SAOP), as mandated by OMB M-16-24PDF, has overall responsibility and accountability for ensuring the agency’s implementation of information privacy protections, including the agency’s full compliance with federal laws, regulations, and policies relating to information privacy. The SAOP for the IRS is positioned at the Department of Treasury. 

We protect your privacy in online and in-person meetings just as we do with all other interactions. We make sure we authenticate all attendees’ identity, their authorization to be in the meeting, and their need to know. The IRS might need to record a meeting you attend, with your consent. Designated IRS hosts may record meetings. If we do so, we will notify all participants we are recording. By joining and staying in the recorded meeting, you consent to the recording. To opt out of recording, you may leave a recorded meeting. If this is an in-person meeting about your tax account, we follow IRC 7521(a). In such a meeting, you may request to record, with prior notice to the IRS, and the IRS may also record. All such recordings become federal records, which we protect and keep following federal privacy, security, and records requirements. If we use a third-party application or service, we still protect your privacy. Our agreement with that vendor requires that IRS privacy policies apply and override those of the application or service. For more detailed information, please refer to these Internal Revenue Manual sections:

Privacy compliance

A PCLIA is a decision-making tool used to identify and mitigate privacy risks at the beginning of and throughout the development life cycle of a program or system. PCLIAs help the public understand what PII the agency is collecting, why it is being collected, and how it will be used, shared, accessed, secured and stored. The PCLIA uses the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs) to assess and mitigate any impact on an individual’s privacy. Generally, a PCLIA is required before a program or system containing PII becomes operational.

Generally, a PCLIA should accomplish these goals:

  • Ensure conformance with applicable legal, regulatory, and policy requirements for privacy.
  • Determine the risks and effects.
  • Evaluate protections and alternative processes to mitigate potential privacy risks.
  • Provide assurance to the public about the protection of privacy and constitutional rights.

Approved PCLIAs are published on the IRS's Privacy Impact Assessment page unless they are classified.

A System of Records is a group of records under the control of any federal agency from which information is retrieved by a unique personal identifier assigned to an individual. A SORN is a formal notice to the public published in the Federal Register that identifies the purpose for which PII is collected, from whom and what type of PII is collected, how the PII is shared externally (routine uses), and how to access and correct any PII maintained by the department or agency.

A SORN is required when a government agency has a system of records as defined above. In some instances, the agency may have an existing SORN that covers a collection of systems or programs.

All SORNs are approved by the agency’s Chief Privacy Officer prior to publication and are sent to OMB and Congress for comment. After, they are published in the Federal Register for thirty days to give the public notice and time to comment. A program or system may not become operational until the SORN has been published for 30 days.

All IRS SORNs published in the Federal Register can be found on the U.S. Department of the Treasury System of Records Notices webpage. There is a section labeled “Exemptions claimed for the system” that lists any exemptions to the Privacy Act at the end of each SORN.

A computer matching program is required by the Privacy Act for any computerized comparison of two or more automated systems of records, or a system of records with non-federal records, for establishing or verifying eligibility or compliance as it relates to cash or in-kind assistance or payments under federal benefit programs.

Notices for approved computer matching programs are published in the Federal Register and can be found on the U.S. Department of the Treasury Computer Matching Programs webpage. There are exemptions for computer matching agreements for internal systems used for tax administration purposes.

In accordance with Section 522 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005, the Department of the Treasury prepares a report to Congress on an annual basis covering the Department’s activities which affect privacy. These activities include complaints of privacy violations, implementation of section 552a of title 5, 11 United States Code, internal controls, as well as other relevant matters. A listing of all publicly available privacy reports can be found at the U.S. Department of the Treasury Privacy Act Annual Reports webpage.

Information on IRS Privacy Act Implementation Rules can be found at the Federal Register Privacy Act Implementation for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Exemptions to the Privacy Act can be found near the end of each individual SORN, in the “Exemptions claimed for the system,” as well as in Treasury Regulation 31 CFR 1.36.

Ensuring the IRS preserves and enhances public confidence by properly protecting, retaining and disclosing taxpayer information is the main purpose of the IRS Privacy Program PlanPDF

The plan provides an overview of the:

  • IRS’s privacy protection responsibilities
  • A description of the structure of the privacy program
  • Resources dedicated to the privacy program
  • Role of the Senior Agency Official for Privacy (SAOP) and other privacy officials and staff
  • Strategic goals and objectives of the privacy program
  • Management controls in place or planned for meeting applicable privacy requirements and managing privacy risks
  • Information necessary by the agency’s privacy requirements

Privacy Act requests

Note: Federal tax records are exempt from access or amendment. To amend a federal tax record, taxpayers must file Form 1040-X or follow IRS procedures for other changes, such as change of address.

The Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, provides safeguards against unwarranted invasions of privacy by establishing a code of "fair information practices." The principles, commonly referenced as the fair information practice principles (FIPPs), require agencies to comply with statutory norms for collection, maintenance, access, use, and dissemination of records.

To increase transparency and assure notice to individuals, the Privacy Act requires agencies to publish in the Federal Register notice of modifications to or the creation of systems of records. The term "system of records" means a group of any records under the control of any agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual.

A current listing of the Department's System of Records, along with updated routine uses and claimed exemptions, can be found the on the Treasury Department's System of Records Notices page.

To further protect the individual, the Privacy Act requires all records which are used by the agency in making any determination about any individual to be maintained with such accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness as is reasonably necessary to assure fairness to the individual in the determination.

The Privacy Act grants individuals increased rights of access to records maintained about them, as well as the right to seek amendment of records maintained about them. 

IRS offers routine access to other records through procedures designed to make access quick and easy. If you are working directly with an IRS employee on an open tax case, you can request information from the file directly from them.

You may submit Privacy Act Request to the IRS at the FOIA Public Access Portal. The IRS FOIA Public Access Portal is a secure portal that allows requesters to electronically submit a FOIA and Privacy Act request(s), check the status of submitted request(s), and securely send and receive messages to and from the agency.

You may mail or fax your request to:
Internal Revenue Service
FOIA Public Liaison Line: 312-292-3297
IRS FOIA/Privacy Act Request
HQ FOIA
Stop 211
PO Box 621506
Atlanta, GA 30362-3006
Fax: 877-807-9215

​​​IRS employees

Should follow instructions in IRM 10.5.6.6 - Privacy Act Request for Non-Tax Records​​​​​

 

Privacy complaints

A privacy complaint is a written allegation filed with the Service's Office of Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure, regarding a potential problem or violation of privacy protections in the administration of IRS programs and operations that may cause harm or violation of your personal or information privacy. This complaint or inquiry may concern:

  • Issues regarding consent, collection, and appropriate notice
  • Issues regarding unauthorized disclosures
  • General IRS privacy policy and procedures 

The Office of Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure can't assist you with any type of tax matter. We may only address questions about IRS privacy policies or complaints you may have regarding how IRS uses and collects personal information. Do not send in any sensitive information through this correspondence.

Please include as much information as possible to help with our research and response to your query, as appropriate and known. Include the date of the incident, the date of discovery, and what personal information was affected. IRS takes your privacy concerns very seriously, and will respond fully and timely. Please allow up to four weeks for a written response to your complaint or inquiry, so that we have time to research and resolve.

Write the Director, Office of Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure if you have any questions or comments regarding the IRS website's privacy policy or to submit a privacy complaint.

Director, Office of Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure
Internal Revenue Service
Room 7050 OS:P
1111 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20224