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IRS Cautions Practitioners Regarding Sending Sensitive but Unclassified Electronic Mail

Headliner Volume 115
March 8, 2005

In the midst of filing season and with advances in technology, tax professionals may be tempted to contact the Internal Revenue Service by electronic mail (e-mail) about specific taxpayer matters such as audits or other interactions. The IRS takes its responsibility to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of taxpayers and their personal financial information seriously. This is the basic foundation for the public’s trust and voluntary compliance with the tax laws.

The IRS categorizes tax return and return information as sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information.  IRS security and Internet e-mail policies restrict employees from sending SBU information in external e-mail communications. In order not to compromise the taxpayers’ privacy and confidentiality rights, IRS also discourages practitioners from using e-mail to communicate on specific taxpayer matters with assigned IRS employees. If you do send an IRS employee an e-mail that contains tax information concerning a specific taxpayer, the IRS employee is not permitted to reply by e-mail but will reply to you by telephone, mail or fax in certain situations.

The IRS does offer tax professionals enrolled in our e-services  suite of electronic products the ability to conduct certain pre-approved transactions over the Internet.  Those transactions are specifically identified and all necessary safeguards are in place to ensure that taxpayer privacy and confidentiality are not compromised.