Confidential Tax Information

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There are specific statutes requiring confidentiality of state tax information.  The general statute (T.C.A. § 67-1-1702(a)) provides:

Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, returns, tax information and tax administration information shall be confidential and, except as authorized by this part, no officer or employee of the department or of any office of a district attorney general or any state or local law enforcement agency, and no other person, or officer or employee of the state, who has or had access to such information shall disclose any such information obtained by such officer or employee in any manner in connection with such officer's or employee's service as an officer or employee, or obtained pursuant to this part, or obtained otherwise.

Violation of this confidentiality statute is a criminal offense. 

Because the statute makes reference to “tax information” and “returns” which are defined with reference to taxes collected by or on behalf of the state (T.C.A. § 67-1-1701), there has been confusion over the release of tax information which is purely local, such as hotel/motel tax.  The Tennessee Attorney General had issued an opinion that information regarding local hotel/motel taxes was subject to the state confidentiality statute (Attorney General Opinion No. U94-059 dated March 24, 1994), but T.C.A. § 67-1-1702 was amended in 2016 to state that these confidentiality provisions (T.C.A. § 67-1-1701 et seq.) do not apply to hotel/motel taxes.  Accordingly, hotel/motel tax records are no longer confidential.

In addition to the general statute, business tax returns, statements, reports, and audits of the taxpayer’s records are confidential and cannot be disclosed except to the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s attorney, or an authorized governmental entity (T.C.A. § 67-4-722), but the name and address of any present or former business owner as appearing on a business license or application therefor is expressly declared to be a public record and not confidential. T.C.A. § 67-4-722.