July 16, 1998
Public Disclosure of IRS Records: A Correction Statement by John W. Carlin, Archivist of the United States
Statements quoted from an employee of the National Archives and Records Administration in a news story this week erroneously imply that new legislation will permit NARA to make taxpayer information public. Public disclosure is not authorized by the legislation.
The statements are in a story issued by the Associated Press on July 13, 1998, under the headline, "New Records Access in IRS Overhaul." The story refers to legislation -- the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 -- which the President has not yet received for signature but which the Congress recently passed. The legislation authorizes the IRS to disclose "returns and return information to officers and employees of the National Archives and Records Administration for purposes of, and only to the extent necessary in, the appraisal of records for destruction or retention." It then specifically adds that NARA is not authorized to "disclose any return or return information disclosed under the preceding sentence to any person other than to the Secretary [of the Treasury], or to another officer or employee of the National Archives and Records Administration whose official duties require such disclosure for purposes of such appraisal."
In short, for the first time, this provides IRS with clear legal authority to allow professional archivists from NARA to determine which records have sufficient continuing value to warrant retention, as we do with other Federal agencies. The legislation does not authorize NARA to take custody of taxpayer information or open it to the public, thus protecting taxpayer confidentiality. We regret any implication to the contrary.
For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.