TN 5 (09-05)
GN 03320.010 Disclosure of Tax Return Information With Consent
A. Policy - Disclosure
SSA must disclose tax return information upon receipt of a properly prepared written consent statement from the subject of the record or from someone who can consent for him/her, provided the individual consenting has access rights to the information. (See GN 03340.005B. for instructions for determining who has access rights. Also, see GN 03305.005 for who may give consent to disclose a record and GN 03305.006 for who may give consent to disclose a record.)
Return any consent statement that does not meet the criteria in GN 03305.001B. and GN 03320.010B. to the requester with an explanation of the problem and request him/her to submit a new consent. If you are unable to contact the requester, or if the requester is unable or unwilling to obtain a new consent, handle the request as a FOIA request (see GN 03350.005B.3. for routing instructions).
SSA must ensure that there is “informed consent” when disclosing information with the written consent of the individual, i.e., both the individual and SSA fully understand the specific information the individual is authorizing SSA to disclose. Because individuals may not be aware of the contents of SSA’s earnings queries, exercise care when handling a consent which designates a query as the information to be disclosed, or if you consider disclosing a query to fill a request. Disclose a query to honor a consent request only if:
the information specified in the consent matches exactly the information on the query; or
the component handling the request documents that it has explained all of the information on the query to the individual and the individual gives his/her permission to SSA to disclose the query.
NOTE: These guidelines on disclosing queries apply to all queries, not just the SEQY and DEQY. See GN 03305.002 for further instructions about handling consent statements that authorize the disclosure of SSA queries.
Written consents to disclose tax return information must meet both SSA’s and IRS’ consent requirements. The IRS requirements are more restrictive than SSA’s requirements (see GN 03320.010.B.2., GN 03305.001B.2.b., and GN 03305.001B.5.). The forms SSA-7004-SM and SSA-7050-F4 are designed to meet all of SSA’s and IRS’ consent requirements. However, any written authorization meeting all of the requirements is acceptable.
A third party seeking tax return information cannot require SSA to process a request within a specific time frame.
B. Policy - Criteria For Consent Statement
The consent statement authorizing disclosure of tax return information must meet both IRS’ and SSA’s consent criteria as discussed in the following.
1. SSA and IRS Requirements in Common
A consent statement authorizing the disclosure of tax return information must:
Specify the name, Social Security number, and date of birth of the individual whose information is to be disclosed.
Be written, signed and dated by the individual, or someone who can consent for him/her (see GN 03305.005 for instructions on who may give consent).
Specifically authorize SSA to release records. (A consent addressed to “all third parties,” “to whom it may be concerned,” or any similarly worded consent is not acceptable. However, a consent listing several entities is acceptable, as long as SSA is specifically named; this satisfies our requirement that the consent is addressed specifically to SSA.)
Specify the information to be disclosed (e.g., employer names and addresses and amount of wages for calendar year 2003). A consent authorizing the disclosure of “all records,” “entire file,” or any similar blanket request is not acceptable. See GN 03305.002 for instructions regarding the disclosure of queries. For example, a consent authorizing disclosure of “all of my earnings information in SSA files” is not acceptable.
State the purpose for which the information is to be disclosed (this helps SSA determine if a fee is applicable to the disclosure).
Specify to whom the record may be disclosed.
State a time during which the record may be disclosed. If no time frame is given, assume the consent is for a one-time-only disclosure. See GN 03305.001B.6. for instructions concerning consents authorizing disclosure on an ongoing basis.
2. Additional IRS Requirements
In addition to the requirements in GN 03320.005B.1., IRS regulations, 26 C.F.R. §301.6103(c)-1T, require that a consent statement authorizing the disclosure of tax return information must:
Address only the disclosure of tax return information (e.g., a single consent statement authorizing the disclosure of detailed earnings information for certain years and Social Security medical records is unacceptable; the authorization to disclose tax return information must be in its own consent form) (see GN 03320.005B.3. for instructions concerning the use of Form SSA-3288); and
Be received by SSA within 120 days of the date the individual signs the consent form. See GN 03305.001B.2. for instructions for handling consents to disclose tax return information that are not received in SSA timely.
3. Use of the SSA-3288 – Consent for Release of Information
The Form SSA-3288 was designed as a model consent form individuals could use to authorize SSA’s disclosure of their non-tax return information in SSA’s possession. However, if an individual submits Form SSA-3288 and the form authorizes only the disclosure of tax return information it may be accepted. IRS regulations 26 C.F.R. §301.6103(c)-1T.
If the form authorizes the disclosure of non-tax return information and tax return information, provide the non-tax return information and explain that the request for tax return information requires a separate authorization. Provide the requester with a copy of Form SSA-7004-SM or Form SSA-7050-F4, depending on the tax return information that is requested. See GN 03305.001B.4. for additional information about Form SSA-3288 and tax return information.
NOTE: The Forms SSA-7004-SM and SSA-7050-F4 are designed to meet all of the consent requirements.
C. Process – Handling Requests
See GN 03320.001E.