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SMITH v. U.S.

January 18, 1989

THOMAS J. SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:

OPINION

This is a unique case — presenting a singular scenario.

The Court has found no case law dispositive of the issues posited. The uncommon facts here involve the disclosure of tax return information by a federal government tax official to a state tax official; and the matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment.

I — Facts

At the time of the disclosure, Ira Loeb was, and is still, the District Director for the Springfield District of the Internal Revenue Service. As such, he is the federal official chiefly responsible for the administration of the federal tax laws within the district. Plaintiff, Thomas Smith, was employed by the Illinois Department of Revenue and acted as the liaison official for the Federal-State Exchange Program (Program). The Program facilitates the exchange of confidential tax information between the IRS and the State of Illinois Department of Revenue (Revenue). As the liaison official, Smith was the contact point between the IRS and Revenue. During the relevant period, J. Thomas Johnson was the Director of the Illinois Department of Revenue.

In mid-October of 1984, information regarding Mr. Smith's tax delinquencies was brought to the attention of Mr. Loeb. Subsequently, Mr. Loeb received a memorandum from Eugene Winston, Chief of the Collection Division for the District, dated October 29, 1984. This memorandum stated that Mr. Smith had not filed a federal tax return for the years 1982 and 1983 and that he had outstanding liabilities for the tax years 1980 and 1981. After receiving this information, Mr. Loeb determined that it indicated a potential state tax violation by Mr. Smith and that this delinquency reflected poorly on Mr. Smith's ability to carry out his liaison responsibilities. Mr. Loeb then decided that the IRS should request that Mr. Smith be relieved of his position as the liaison official.

To accomplish his goal, Mr. Loeb determined that the Director of the Department of Revenue of Illinois should be contacted directly. Cognizant of disclosure laws, however, Mr. Loeb consulted IRS counsel for their opinion of whether the disclosures about Mr. Smith could be made. It was determined by counsel that the disclosure could be made lawfully under 26 U.S.C. § 6103(d) of the Internal Revenue Code.*fn1 Counsel further advised Mr. Loeb on the implications of disclosure in light of Rueckert v. Gore, 587 F. Supp. 1238 (N.D.Ill. 1984),*fn2 which involved disclosures of federal tax return information to the Illinois Department of Revenue. After receiving clearance from the IRS counsel, Mr. Loeb personally provided Mr. Johnson, the Director of Revenue, with the Winston memorandum and requested that Mr. Smith be relieved of his liaison responsibilities. The filing of Mr. Smith's complaint ensued.

II — Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), both parties have moved for summary judgment. Rule 56(c) mandates that summary judgment should be entered "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." The fact that cross-motions for summary judgment have been filed does not per se entitle the Court to dispense with the determination of whether questions of material fact exist. We must give no less careful scrutiny to the facts here than we would had only one litigant moved for summary judgment. See Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Voigt, 700 F.2d 341, 349 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 805, 104 S.Ct. 53, 78 L.Ed.2d 72 (1983). Having done so, however, we conclude that this cause is properly decided as a matter of law.

III — Section 6103(d) Violation

The parties agree, and the Court concurs, that the operative section of the Code is section 6103. The pertinent subsections of that section state:

    (a) General Rule. — Returns and return
  information shall be confidential, and except as
  authorized by this title —

(1) no officer or employee of the United States

  shall disclose any return or return information
  obtained by him in any manner in connection with
  his service as such an officer or an employee or
  otherwise or under the provisions of this
  section. For purposes of this subsection, the
  term ...

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