Tax Privacy?
Volume 90, No. 3, Spring 2018
By Adam B. Thimmesch [PDF]

The academic literature addressing privacy in the context of the U.S. tax system has generally discussed tax privacy as nothing more than a limited right of confidentiality. That literature fails to account for the broader range of privacy interests identified in the general privacy literature. In turn, the privacy scholarship has failed to account for the vast information flows that occur in our tax system. This Article addresses that disconnect by evaluating tax privacy through the lens of that broader literature. It shows that some privacy conceptions might support a limited view of tax privacy on the surface but that there are significant reasons to doubt that tax privacy should be as narrow as mere confidentiality. The Article thus proposes a tax-privacy framework that draws from the strengths of each different privacy conception without adopting any one conception as correct. That framework provides a foundation for future work in this area even though the more general concept of privacy continues to be debated. The Article concludes by identifying the top tax-privacy issues that should be addressed in the near term—the secondary use of tax information and the security of tax information.

Adam B. Thimmesch is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Nebraska College of Law.