The purpose of this article is to study the right of the taxpayer to elicit information from the federal government in a dispute over the amount of tax that is due. The article is limited to: (1) taxpayer's discovery, hence, it does not cover the ability of the government to elicit information about the taxpayer (by administrative summons or otherwise); (2) civil controversies, hence, it does not cover the right of the taxpayer to get information from the government when a criminal tax dispute arises; (3) federal controversies, hence, it does not cover the rights a taxpayer may have in gaining information from state taxing authorities; (4) tax controversies, hence, it does not cover the ability of the taxpayer to get information from the government regarding other types of disputes. Nontax cases are discussed to the extent that the author feels they would be applicable to federal tax controversies. It is probably disputable whether tax controversies with the government differ materially from other types of controversies with the government, however, it is the opinion of the author that they do since taxes are the source of financial life for the government. Therefore, the author believes that discovery is looked on with less favor in tax disputes. In a self assessment taxing system, it would seem that the opposite should be the case. The government derives its case from the information kept by taxpayers. It would seem only fair that the government should share that information with those from whom it is derived. The Internal Revenue Service has a duty only to collect those taxes legally owing to the government. If it has information which may establish that certain disputed funds are not owing to the government, it should have a duty to give that information to the taxpayer-much like a prosecutor has a duty to turn over favorable information to the attorney for the defense.
Jeffrey E. Curtiss,
Taxpayer’s Discovery in Civil Federal Tax Controversies,
51 Neb. L. Rev. 290
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol51/iss2/5