by Brian Mahany
4 weeks ago we wrote a post about an internal IRS search warrant manual that said agents did not need to obtain a search warrant in order to read a taxpayer’s email. This was especially troubling since a federal court of appeals ruled in 2010 that emails shared the same expectation of privacy as regular mail. The court ruled that the IRS’ policy of getting emails from Internet Service Providers without permission and without a court order violated the 4th Amendment.
That should have been the end of the story but the ACLU and CNET released evidence last month that the IRS was not following the law. Congress stepped in and is debating amending the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to prohibit the practice. The Justice Department dropped its resistance to the measure.
Facing mounting public and political pressure, the IRS last week released a policy memo saying it would now follow the court’s ruling and require IRS agents to obtain a warrant before snooping through email.
The decision to bow to public pressure and follow the law is a good one. Why the IRS hasn’t followed the law for the last several years is more troubling. Technically, the court’s decision was only binding in certain states but the Service usually follows appellate court decisions everywhere.
If you are facing a criminal tax investigation or have been charged with tax evasion, seek competent criminal tax counsel immediately. The government holds the upper hand with its wide array of investigative techniques and surveillance tools. Getting a great lawyer that focuses on white collar tax cases can level the playing field, however.
The tax attorneys at Mahany & Ertl specialize in a wide variety of criminal tax matters including unreported offshore accounts, tax evasion, FBAR violations, wire fraud and money laundering. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 223-0464 (direct). All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept in strict confidence.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Tax Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine; Minneapolis, Minnesota and San Francisco, California. Services available in many jurisdictions.
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