Originally published on Passive Activities and Other Oxymorons on May 6th, 2011.
I've got a huge backlog, so I probably shouldn't be pushing this one to the head of the list but I can't help myself. First of all it's been months since any PMTA's have been released. I was afraid that they had been abandoned. PMTA stands for Program Manager Technical Assistance. My first scoop was about a PMTA concerning lien releases for short sales. This one is of little practical import, but I couldn't resist it since it mentions one of my favorite neighborhoods and points out a neat aspect of working for the IRS. There's also something about carrying guns. The PMTA is about the potential for improper disclosure of information. There ae two questions.
The first is whether agents can send people with powers of attorney an email acknowledging receipt of something:
When a POA sends a CWA to the IRS, the POA often requests acknowledgement from the IRS that the IRS received the CWA. CWA examiners would like to send a return email to the POA which states “Rcvd.” The email would not contain any other identifying information.
Silly goose, of course not:
An IRS examiner may not send an email to a taxpayer's power of attorney to acknowledge the IRS's receipt of a Central Withholding Agreement because the acknowledgement of receipt would be return information and the transmission of the acknowledgement by unsecured email would violate the IRS's policy against the transmission of return information by unsecured email.
Can't be too careful. That "Rcvd" might fall into the wrong hands.
That's not the fun part of the PMTA. Here is the fun part:
Whether an examiner may notify his spouse or other relative of his whereabouts when he conducts compliance activities at a taxpayer's business at night
What do you think ? - Well, of course not.
An IRS examiner may not notify his spouse or other relative of his specific location when he conducts compliance activities at a taxpayer's business or place of engagement at night if the location of a taxpayer's business would identify the taxpayer. An examiner may tell his relative his general location while conducting compliance activities in the field at night or give a phone number where his family can reach him if necessary.
Robin and Terry have had a lot of work to do in the last year. They are the couple of indeterminate gender and marital status who help me avoid awkward pronoun problems. I introduced them in a post on registered domestic partners and they have been featured in several posts, like this one, on same sex couple tax issues. For this post we can leave their gender entirely indeterminate (same, different, whatever). Robin is an IRS agent and Terry is a police officer. Although the PMTA says that an IRS examiner cannot notify "his spouse or other relative", I think from the context of the memo Section 3 of DOMA is not relevant. In other words they mean that Robin cannot tell anybody outside the IRS the destination for the night's investigative activities.
The memo goes on to provide an example of the level of disclosure that might be permitted:
For example, an examiner may tell a relative that he is in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. Because of the vast number of taxpayers that reside, do business, or perform in the Chelsea neighborhood, this information would not identify the taxpayer. However, as discussed above, the examiner could not tell his relative what business or venue in the Chelsea neighborhood he had visited. Similarly, an examiner could tell his relative that he planned to conduct compliance activities at the Empire State Building so long as he did not state which office within the building he planned to visit. Examiners may also tell their relatives that they have arrived safely at their location, how long they intend to be at the location, when they expect to be home, and give their relative a phone number where their relative can reach them.
Chelsea is a very small geographic area, but as noted it has a lot in it including my high school. Presumably if Robin and Terry lived in Wyoming and Robin told Terry what county the business Robin was auditing was in, Terry would be able to narrow it down to three or four businesses. The IRS is sensitive to the hostitlity that revenue agents, like Robin might be subject to, which is why Robin would like to be able to disclose whereabouts to Officer Terry. They address it in the memo:
Examiners are also encouraged to utilize the IRS's armed escort program if the taxpayer has been designated a potentially dangerous taxpayer.
That really caught my interest and I now have more useless information such as whether the escort will be from CI or TIGTA. You can check that out here, if you would like. One more reason for me to not work for the IRS. I'm too old for the gun toting jobs so if I got assigned to something like checking on strip clubs, I might need an armed escort. It could be, though, that my protector will be a young woman. I mean how embarassing is that ? On the other hand I would be absolutely prohibited from telling my SO what I was up to. At least that would be a comfort.