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BK-CPA, Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 933
Experience:  Owner of a CPA firm
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I gave my landlord a copy of my tax return to prove to him

Customer Question

I gave my landlord a copy of my tax return to prove to him that I was getting a refund. Then he used my social security number without my permission to get on line to find out the status of my return from the IRS. Is what he did illegal?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Tax
Expert:  Arthur Rubin replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for using Just Answer.

Interesting question. I would say that, depending on your (pre-)rental agreement, you might have given him legal authority to verify the statement you made. It's impossible to tell without looking at what you signed.

However, verifying the information with the IRS using the online service requires information from the previous year's return, and includes a jurat which states that he is the taxpayer; and it's unlikely the IRS would have given him the information on the phone unless he had claimed to be you.

On the third hand, if you signed an authorization for him to receive information on your return on an official IRS form 8821 or acceptable substitute, then what he did was perfectly legal.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
He did not answer the specific question. I gave the landlord my tax return voluntarily. Then the landlord got on line with the IRS using my SSN and checked my refund status without my permission. Is this illegal? Please answer my exact question or refund my money.
Expert:  Arthur Rubin replied 7 years ago.
I guess I'll have to opt-out. You haven't given specific information which allows me to determine whether what he did was legal.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
"I gave my landlord a copy of my tax return to prove to him that I was getting a refund. Then he used my social security number without my permission to get on line to find out the status of my return from the IRS. Is what he did illegal?"

This defined a very precise legal question which you have chosen to not answer for whatever reason. Please refund my $30.


Expert:  BK-CPA replied 7 years ago.

This is a legal question, not a tax question, but I can tell you the IRS position on releasing information:


Without proper consent, the IRS cannot release your information. I cannot get any information about my clients without a signed power of attorney, for example. By going online, your landlord sidestepped the authorization using your tax return information and posing as you. At best, XXXXX XXXXX highly unethical.


The purpose of you showing your landlord your tax return was to prove you were receiving a refund. Verifying this should have been a non-issue. Your landlord obviously doesn't trust you (or perhaps anybody for that matter). If your landlord uncovered information that did not agree with your tax return, which seems to be the only reason he would let you know what he did in the first place, then hell, you may have been fraudulent yourself, in which case you two deserve each other.


I'll ask again now in this thread, as your question does not give every possible detail whether you like it or not. Did you sign a rental agreement that perhaps contained some fine print and authorized your landlord to do things like obtain credit reports, tax transcripts, etc.? If so, it may be perfectly legal.


If all you did was hand your landlord your tax return, but did not sign anything, did not give any verbal authorization, etc., then it sounds like what he did was illegal. Now you need to go to the lawyer's forum, as this is not a tax question any more.


My thoughts are that, if there were no actual damages caused by your landlord, you're not going to win anything in a civil suit (the ones where greedy idiots sometimes try to get money, and of course, sometimes good people use them legitimately also). A criminal charge is different, but doesn't seem too beneficial to you, so what does it matter. I'm not a lawyer though, so I don't really know the answers to the legal stuff. This whole question seems absolutely ridiculous...


Customer: replied 7 years ago.
You clearly don't want to look anything up. Once again I ask for a refund. Hopefully the unprofessional attitude expressed in your answer will not prevent you from making the right decision.
Expert:  BK-CPA replied 7 years ago.
I have no control over refunds, nor am I the original expert who opted out. You already offended that person, more-or-less. I also responded as an info-request, and not an answer, so as not to charge you. I spent my time trying to explain something to you for free, so take it for what it is worth.

Edited by BK-CPA on 5/3/2010 at 12:21 AM EST
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
The answer is not accepted because in all that was said no one really attempted to answer the clear and specific question asked which requires someone to look up IRS privacy rules if they don't already know them. Whose "offended" is irrelevant. Professionals aren't offended. They just do their job or don't take the money. Since the answer is not acceptable (no reasonable effort made to answer the question asked), please advise how I get a refund. (If you don't have procedures in place for this, then it's clear that you intend to keep the consumer money regardless of the quality of your work.)
Expert:  BK-CPA replied 7 years ago.

I don't get any money unless you accept my answer, so there is nothing in this for me.


I did tell you that IRS privacy regulations had been violated. This is clearly a yes.


I can't tell you if that is illegal in terms of your ability to sue or press charges. I simply don't know, as I'm not a lawyer. I'm a certified public accountant who is not authorized to give legal advice on or otherwise.


I now have answered your question though, as I can tell you your privacy has been violated in terms of any IRS privacy rules (IRS privacy rules are based on the law... not specific IRS privacy law). Again, the IRS would have told me "no" should I have called and asked for that information, unless of course I had a signed power of attorney.


Did you have this form signed or an equivalent?


If not, your privacy has been violated. Maybe you signed a rental agreement giving permission... I still don't know as you won't tell me, but I can't get any clearer. I am now answering this as an answer and not an information request, so if you accept it, I will get paid. If not, I won't. That is up to you. I answered to be nice.

BK-CPA, Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Category: Tax
Satisfied Customers: 933
Experience: Owner of a CPA firm
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