Making FOIA Requests – Forms, Fees, Exemptions and Exclusions
The Freedom of Information Action (FOIA) is the legislation that makes it mandatory for the IRS to reveal your personal documents to you should you request to view them. Another related law is the Privacy Act. All you need to do is pay a token fee and make an official request to view all documents pertaining to you or your family that are being held by the IRS. Click here to read or watch more IRS Help resources.
Your request should be accompanied by a letter to the IRS stating that the request is pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act, and specifying the files or documents requested. A power of attorney or other IRS form for release of documents must accompany the letter. Also you should state that you are willing to pay the relevant photocopy expenses. Remember to make your request for all documents and information in whatever form or media in which it is contained.
You can request for just about any document or file that is connected to yourself. Here are some of the common types of documents taxpayers tend to request:
• Audit file
• Appeal file
• Collection file
• Administrative file
• Substitute for return file
• Criminal file
• Tax returns and the Return Information file
• The MFTRA-X, IMF-30 Specific, IMFOL, IMFOLT, SUMRY and TXMODA transcripts stored on electronic media, to be produced in hard copy for the tax years or tax periods indicated.
Most of the time, people wish to see their own tax return. In this case, you will have to file IRS Form 4506, Request for Copy or Transcript of Tax Form or IRS Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization.
However, the law specifies 9 types of documents that are exempted from the FOIA and as such cannot be requested for disclosure. They are:
1. Documents classified by the government as crucial to national security
2. Internal personnel rules and practices
3. Documents that are exempted under other laws
4. Documents that pertain to someone other than yourself or your immediate family
5. Confidential business information
6. Internal Government communications
7. Law enforcement
8. Financial institutions
9. Geological information
Finally, your FOIA request may be turned down (i.e. excluded) if your request falls under certain categories. There are 3 main exclusions which are firstly, when you are being investigated for some criminal offence. Secondly, it is when the information you seek could divulge the identity of a criminal informant who is involved in the criminal investigation in your case. And finally, the third exclusion is for the FBI files on foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, or international terrorism. But these 3 exclusions would most likely not apply to most taxpayers, so your FOIA request should not be denied.