The IRS routinely discloses
large amounts of federal tax information, or FTI,
to state tax agencies.
When FTI is exchanged
on such a large scale, the possibility
of confidentiality breaches increases.
By limiting disclosures of FTI
to that which is genuinely needed
and will be used for tax-administration purposes,
we reduce the risk of unintended accesses or disclosures.
The Internal Revenue Service
has a formal policy
that the FTI provided
to state tax agencies
will be limited
to their justified need and use
for that information.
The term "need and use" describes the concept
that an agency must use
the federal tax information it receives
only for state tax administration purposes.
Internal Revenue Code Section 6103(d)(1)
says that "Disclosure may be made only for the purpose of
"and to the extent necessary in
the administration of state tax laws."
The objective of the need and use process
is to reduce risk.
It is not meant to deny agencies access
to the information they need for tax administration.
All agency requests for FTI
are subject to a need and use determination
by IRS disclosure at the time federal tax information
is requested before release of any information.
The IRS's Office of Safeguards
conducts need and use reviews of state tax agencies
as part of its safeguard review process.
Safeguards considers whether the agency's use of FTI
complies with the governing provisions
that allow the disclosure.
This verification process includes
an evaluation of the data provided to the agency,
the need and use purpose cited originally by the agency,
and an analysis of how the data was actually used.
Tax-administration uses of FTI encompass the assessment,
examination, and collection of state taxes,
including income, sales, excise, estate or inheritance,
and other taxes.
Tax-administration activities also include
locating people entitled to tax refunds.
Collection of fees imposed by estate and other activities,
such as licensing or certification,
are not appropriate uses of FTI.
For example, the IRS Levy Extract
cannot be used to collect non-tax debts owed to the state.
Safeguards considers such uses
to be significant unauthorized accesses.
In some states, the principle taxing agency
also administers other state programs,
like paying all obligations to vendors or service providers.
The agency cannot use FTI to clean up its vendor database.
Similarly, a state workforce agency
cannot use FTI to administer
its Unemployment Compensation and Benefit program.
While FTI could be used to mail tax packages or information,
FTI cannot be used to develop mailing lists
for non-tax programs.
To explore need and use a bit more closely,
here's a typical situation.
Let's say your agency receives a particular extract
for one or two years,
planning to use it in a new initiative or program.
Budgetary restrictions or other priorities
prevent use of this data.
At this point, your agency must seriously consider
whether it should continue requesting the data,
because the need and use requirement
has not been satisfied.
Stockpiling FTI indefinitely
in anticipation of potential future programs
is another example of a prohibited use of FTI.
Agencies should be ready to implement
a new initiative or program as soon as possible
after receipt of the FTI they request.
As a general rule,
the IRS Safeguard staff looks at a two-year period.
If an agency has two years of data and has not used it,
the need and use standard is not met.
However, each set of facts and circumstances
is considered individually.
For example, a state with an implementation plan
for the pending project, complete with milestone dates
and other clear evidence of their intention to use the data,
may meet the need and use standard.
Without a definite plan
to use the data held for an extended period,
Safeguards will advise the agency to dispose of the data.
When a tax agency finds
that it no longer needs or uses an extract or other FTI,
it should immediately cancel
future receipt of that information
and either destroy any unnecessary information
in its files
or return the information to the IRS.
Document the destruction of the data
to meet the requirements of the law.
We want to leave you with this clear message --
the IRS is your partner,
ready to provide you with access to federal tax information
necessary to accomplish your mission.
It is our job to make sure that the data you will receive
is data that you need and will use.
Remember that if you have any questions
or need any help regarding need and use
or any other issues involving access to FTI,
contact your local Disclosure Office
to check it out.