Disclosures of Return Information in the IRS Whistleblower Program

On February 2, 2010, Deborah A. Butler, Associate Chief Counsel, provided legal advice in PMTA 2011-31, advising the employees of the IRS Whistleblower Office that they are authorized to disclose [taxpayer] return information in making tax reward payment determinations pursuant to Section 7623 or providing status updates to IRS whistleblowers regarding pending, unprocessed, or dismissed claims under Section 7623.

 However, the office stressed, the specific taxpayer return information that may be disclosed to an IRS whistleblower in a particular instance will depend on the facts and circumstances of the matter.  In the legal opinion, Ms. Butler stated,

"Neither section 7623 nor any other Code section specifically authorizes the disclosure of taxpayer return information in the course of the whistleblower award review and determination process.  Nonetheless…Congress presumably did not intend to create an irreconcilable conflict between the IRS Whistleblower Office’s non-disclosure obligations and its obligation to convey appealable determinations to whistleblowers."

The legal opinion from the IRS Office of Chief Counsel concluded that IRC § 6103(h)(4), which authorizes disclosures of such information in judicial and administrative proceedings, authorizes the IRS Whistleblower Office disclosures, as the whistleblower award review and determination process would be considered an administrative proceeding.

PMTA 2011-31 was dated Feb. 1, 2010.

Despite the above legal opinion from the Office of Chief Counsel, we note that in the nearly two years that has passed since the advice was given; the IRS Whistleblower Office is reluctant to provide status updates as to the open whistleblower cases.  It is important that the whistleblower engage a knowledgeable and experienced tax whistleblower attorney to assist them.