The IRS and the Freedom of Information Act

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In 1966, the Freedom of Information Act, commonly referred to as FOIA, was enacted. This act gives individuals the rights to access federal records or information from federal government agencies. FOIA exists due to the belief that the federal government belongs to the people, therefore the federal governments information should belong to the people.

In 1996, FOIA was amended so that federal agencies were required to make their records available to citizens online. Along with the OPEN Government Act of 2007, FOIA helps to promote government transparency.

There is tax information available to taxpayers without a FOIA request, including:

  • Copy of a tax return
  • IRS account transcripts
  • CAF client listing requests
  • Tax Forms and Publications
  • Tax-exempt and political organization returns

A FOIA request with the IRS is done so that a taxpayer can see the information the IRS has about them on file. The documents from this request can be used by an experienced tax attorney to explain how, why, and when a taxpayer’s problems with the IRS started. Documents provided by a FOIA request shows the information the IRS used to assess tax liabilities, penalties, and interest.

Unfortunately, FOIA requests are complex and it is encouraged that individuals work with an experienced tax attorney to file one. Some records may only be available by a written request. To know if the information you are requesting is available by written request only, the IRS provides a FOIA Guide.

A FOIA request is a good way for a taxpayer and their IRS tax attorney to understand why the IRS acted as they did or imposed penalties as they did. By analyzing the documents retrieved, a better understand of the options available to provide a solution to their tax problem.

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