As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve had the opportunity to represent New Mexico taxpayers on a Taxpayer Advocacy Panel for improving the IRS since October 2002. This appointment by the U.S. Secretary of Treasury and the IRS Commissioner has provided a first class education on a system that touches the life of every American in one way or another.
From day one, the IRS version of the golden rule was drilled into all panelists. Simply stated, it is that the protection of taxpayer privacy is paramount. When determining potential efficiencies that may be introduced into the system, taxpayer privacy trumps all else. Even when the IRS and the states create a partnership to target abusive tax avoidance transactions, they are careful to protect taxpayer privacy:
The ATAT memorandum of understanding focuses solely on abusive tax avoidance transactions. The agreement leaves procedures governing communication on more routine taxpayer compliance efforts unchanged. This maintains the important separation of federal and state tax authority and protection of taxpayer privacy.
“We treat taxpayer privacy as a top priority,” said [IRS Commissioner]Everson. “This agreement does not impede our high standards for protecting taxpayer rights or privacy. The information shared under this agreement will be strictly limited to that pertaining to abusive transactions.”
So, it surprising that on a state level, Senator Sue Wilson-Beffort (R), a member of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), would sponsor SB 524, to reduce taxpayer privacy protection for such a mundane reason as auditing a government department. The RELEASE OF TAXPAYER INFO TO LFC bill introduces the following:
II. upon request of the legislative finance committee, the department shall release information to the legislative finance committee for the purpose of conducting an audit of the department; provided that, with respect to that information, the legislative finance committee and its employees are subject to the same provisions regarding confidentiality of information as employees of the department.
Bad idea. If you want to conduct an audit of a government department, please be my guest. However, don’t even think about doing it at the expense of taxpayer privacy protection.