Posted September 28, 2018 07:10:49The IRS, the government’s main consumer protection agency, has a reputation for not being transparent.
But in an email sent to customers this week, the agency said that it is now allowing customers to view “certain consumer protection records” that are “not subject to public release.”
This is a significant shift in IRS policy, which previously had allowed customers to see the records in plain view without the agency’s permission.
It’s not clear whether the IRS was following the law, but the move was welcome news for customers.
“I have always been concerned that I might lose my home if I tried to get a mortgage loan because of the IRS,” wrote one consumer in an Ars Technic article.
“Now, with the IRS making clear that it’s OK to show me consumer protection information, I know that I won’t.”
This isn’t the first time the IRS changed its policies in response to public pressure.
Earlier this year, it was ordered to provide more details about its handling of a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which had filed a complaint alleging the IRS violated the Electronic Privacy Act (EPAA).
In a statement to Ars, the IRS said it had been responding to requests for information about a complaint filed by EFF.
“The IRS has been working with the federal government for months to address consumer protection matters and has a strong record of compliance,” the agency added.
“While there are still a few areas where we do not have all of the answers, we are now making progress and are making changes to our consumer protection policies.”
For now, it appears that the IRS’s new privacy policies will not affect millions of Americans.
However, the news will have an impact on those who have been victimized by the agency.
As Ars has reported previously, the number of IRS employees who have received whistleblower protection awards has dropped by more than half since 2012, from nearly 7,000 to 2,500.
In the same time period, the department’s response to other federal whistleblower lawsuits has plummeted by nearly 60 percent.
In a statement, the Internal Revenue Service said that its new policies were “a response to the mounting public concern that some IRS employees have been retaliating against whistleblowers.”
“We believe that we can improve our transparency and accountability processes to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, while protecting taxpayers,” the IRS added.
The agency also added that the new policies are consistent with the agency “attempting to provide a transparent and effective marketplace.”
The IRS did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.