IRS Backs Down, Says It Will No Longer Read People’s E-mails without Warrant

May 9, 2013

Last month we reported that the ACLU had discovered a frightening find: the IRS enforcement handbook asserted that the agency did not need warrants before reading taxpayers' e-mails. The official guidance asserted that taxpayers have no expectation of privacy when e-mails are stored on servers, so the IRS could just demand them from Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This assertion was despite the fact that a federal appeals court had held that the IRS in fact must abide by the Fourth Amendment and get a warrant.

The IRS has now backed down. In a policy statement released yesterday (PDF), the IRS concedes that the Fourth Amendment applies to it and that it will obtain a search warrant before demanding e-mails from Internet Service Providers.

This is a victory for taxpayers – although one that shouldn't have been necessary – but congrats to everyone who helped the IRS see the error of its ways!

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