FOIA Advisor

Q&A: application for tax ID numbers (IRS Form SS-4)

Q&A (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q.  If I submit a FOIA request to the Internal Revenue Service for 'all' of the multiple, SS-4 applications submitted to obtain the issuance of tax Identification numbers that were requested by a specific individual, would my request be granted? 

A.   I will not attempt to dissuade you from spending a mere postage stamp to make that request, but I would not bet the farm on the IRS releasing a third party's SS-4 form(s).  The Internal Revenue Code prohibits the disclosure of "return" or "return information" (terms that are defined broadly), except in limited circumstances such as when the taxpayer consents.  See 26 U.S.C. § 6103.  Notably, two federal district courts recently ruled against FOIA requesters who sought, in part, access to the SS-4 forms of third parties.  See Fields v. IRS  (E.D. Mich. 2013) (agreeing with IRS that plaintiff's request for his father's tax information, including an SS-4 application, was "imperfect" in the absence of consent from executor of father's estate); Surgik v. Cirella (D.N.J. 2012) (holding that SS-4 and other tax information was properly withheld by IRS under Exemption 3 of the FOIA, in conjunction with Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code).   

For your convenience, here is an authorization form to obtain tax information from IRS, as well as a link to the agency's FOIA website.