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Stealthy IRS Rules Change

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  • DGHarrison
    Can anyone help me find the e-mail address or telephone number to reach the IRS? I would like to respond to the IRS proposed rule change. Time is of the
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 22, 2006
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      Can anyone help me find the e-mail address or telephone number to reach the IRS? I would like to respond to the IRS proposed rule change. Time is of the essence, and I don't know if snail mail will reach the commissioner before action is taken. I am opposed to the government's intrusion into my private life in general, but the IRS financial colonoscopy is particularly offensive. It is one thing to be forced to provide all my information to the government, but now the government wants to allow that information to be sold to third-party marketeers. The stealth with which this rule change arrives and the misnomers under which it appears ("not a significant regulatory action" and "IRS Issues Proposed Regulations to Safeguard Taxpayer Information") have all my senses on alert. Does anyone have more information to suggest that this rule change needs to be opposed (or perhaps supported)? If it should be opposed, can anyone suggest a proper course of action? Is it something that the RLC should interest itself in?

      I was unable to locate an e-mail address to the IRS commissioner, but I did find his mailing address, as follows:
      Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service
      Mark Everson
      1111 Constitution Avenue NW
      Washington, D.C. 20224
      Doug Harrison
      Minnesota

      IRS plan would allow sale of tax information to marketers

      By Jeff Gelles

      http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0306/gelles032206.php3

      http://www.JewishWorldReview.com |
      The Internal Revenue Service is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns: If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will for the first time be able to sell information from individual returns — or even entire returns — to marketers and data brokers.

      The change is raising alarm among consumer and privacy-rights advocates.

      It was included in a set of proposed rules that the Treasury Department and the IRS published in the Dec. 8 Federal Register, where the official notice labeled them "not a significant regulatory action." IRS officials portray the changes as housecleaning measures needed to update outmoded regulations adopted before it began accepting returns electronically.

      The proposed rules, which would become effective 30 days after a final version is published, would require a tax preparer to obtain written consent before selling tax information.

      Critics call the changes a dangerous new breach in personal and financial privacy. They say the requirement for signed consent would prove meaningless for many taxpayers, especially those hurriedly reviewing stacks of documents before a filing deadline. "The normal interaction is that the taxpayer just signs what the tax preparer puts in front of them," said Jean Ann Fox, of the Consumer Federation of America, one of several groups fighting the changes. "They think, 'This person is a tax professional, and I'm going to rely on them.'"

      Criticism of the proposal also came from U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. In a letter last Tuesday to IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, Obama warned that once in the hands of third parties, tax information could be resold and handled under even looser rules than the IRS sets, increasing consumers' vulnerability to identity theft and other risks. "There is no more sensitive information than a taxpayer's return, and the IRS's proposal to allow these returns to be sold to third-party marketers and database brokers is deeply troubling," Obama wrote.

      The IRS first announced the proposal in a news release the day before the official notice was published, headlined: "IRS Issues Proposed Regulations to Safeguard Taxpayer Information." The announcement did not mention potential sales of tax information. It said the proposed rules were guided by the principle "that tax return preparers may not disclose or use tax return information for purposes other than tax return preparation without the knowing, informed and voluntary consent of the taxpayer."

      IRS spokesman William M. Cressman defended the proposal in similar terms. "The heart of this proposed regulation is about the right of taxpayers to control their tax return information. The idea is to emphasize taxpayer consent and set clear boundaries on how tax return preparers can use or disclose tax return information," Cressman said in an e-mail response to questions. Cressman said he was unable to explain "why this issue has come up at this time other than our effort to update regulations that date back to the 1970s and predate the electronic era."

      Not all the changes have drawn opposition. Beth A. McConnell, director of the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group (PennPIRG), said she welcomed a requirement that a taxpayer would need to consent to overseas processing of any portion of a tax return. "That's a positive development, but I don't think it's worth giving up our tax returns' privacy for," said McConnell, who plans to testify on behalf of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group at an April 4 IRS hearing in Washington on the rule changes.

      McConnell accused the IRS of using the new limit on overseas processing to dress up changes that would chiefly benefit tax preparers, marketers and data brokers. "That's a disturbing trend among Washington officials lately," McConnell said. "They'll offer a modest consumer protection in one area in exchange for dramatic weakening of consumer protections in another area, and then try to convince the public that it's all in our interests."

      Critics of the proposal said it could do more than open up sales of tax information to data brokers and marketers, because it could undermine taxpayer confidence in the entire tax system. "Privacy protections for tax information are especially critical given the largely voluntary nature of the U.S. tax system," said Chi Chi Wu, a tax-law specialist at Boston's National Consumer Law Center. Wu and other critics said they were uncertain who or what was behind the proposed changes in IRS privacy rules, which currently prohibit tax preparers from selling returns to third parties for marketing purposes, and require written consent if they want to use it for marketing by companies under their own corporate umbrella.

      Officials at H&R Block and Jackson-Hewitt, two of the nation's largest tax-preparation firms, did not respond to requests for comment.

      Cressman said the IRS has so far received only about a dozen comments on the proposal. "I think this just flew under the radar screen for so many people," McConnell said. Although the formal comment period ended March 8, Cressman said late comments "may receive consideration if they are sent to the IRS promptly." Consumer advocates are urging taxpayers who oppose the changes to contact the agency and Washington lawmakers.




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    • Steve Redlich
      ... Doug, As the attached article states, The public hearing is April 4th, so you have time to respond. You probably don t want to respond using USPS, due to
      Message 2 of 3 , Mar 22, 2006
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        On Wed, 22 Mar 2006, DGHarrison wrote:

        > Can anyone help me find the e-mail address or telephone number to reach the
        > IRS? I would like to respond to the IRS proposed rule change. Time is of the
        > essence, and I don't know if snail mail will reach the commissioner before
        > action is taken. I am opposed to the government's intrusion into my private
        > life in general, but the IRS financial colonoscopy is particularly offensive.
        > It is one thing to be forced to provide all my information to the government,
        > but now the government wants to allow that information to be sold to
        > third-party marketeers. The stealth with which this rule change arrives and
        > the misnomers under which it appears ("not a significant regulatory action"
        > and "IRS Issues Proposed Regulations to Safeguard Taxpayer Information") have
        > all my senses on alert. Does anyone have more information to suggest that
        > this rule change needs to be opposed (or perhaps supported)? If it should be
        > opposed, can anyone suggest a proper course of action? Is it something that
        > the RLC should interest itself in?
        >
        > I was unable to locate an e-mail address to the IRS commissioner, but I did
        > find his mailing address, as follows:

        Doug,

        As the attached article states, The public hearing is April 4th, so you
        have time to respond. You probably don't want to respond using USPS, due
        to antrax scanning for Washington.

        Go here
        http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main

        Select Internal Revenue Service, and Items open for Comment

        Returns links for
        Procedures for Administrative Review of a Determination That an Authorized
        Recipient Has Failed To Safeguard Tax Returns or Return Information

        Docket ID: IRS-2006-0099

        The Document Is here along with the instructions to comment:

        Send submissions to: CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-157271-05), Room 5203, Internal
        Revenue Service, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC
        20044. Submissions may be hand-delivered between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4
        p.m. to CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-157271-05), Courier"s Desk, Internal Revenue
        Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC, or sent
        electronically, via the IRS Internet site at http://www.irs.gov/regs, or
        via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov(IRS and
        REG-148864-03).


        Steve
      • DGHarrison
        Steve, Thanks for your most excellent response. I was unaware of http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main until you provided the link. I have
        Message 3 of 3 , Mar 22, 2006
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          Steve,

          Thanks for your most excellent response. I was unaware of http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main until you provided the link. I have already sent the link to hundreds of friends who take an interest in what the government is doing. Given the fact that our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. seem unperturbed by any of our exhortations, this avenue may yet prove even more fruitful in getting our voices heard by government. Indeed, I've been scanning the entries and finding dozens of other issues that demand comment. I'll be rather busy for the next few days. I am also adding the link to our "links" page on our RLCMN YahooGroup. These are valuable tools, and we need to make sure everyone is aware of them.

          Doug Harrison
          Minnesota


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