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Did You Know the IRS Can Read Your E-Mails If They Choose to?


Wow – a couple of days ago, I posted a blog about the IRS looking at your Facebook page to see if you are cheating on your taxes. Now, we found out that they can go into your e-mail accounts and read your e-mails if they want to…pretty scary huh? The good news is that this is only a possibility if some sort of red flag appears on your tax return, but they can look regardless. You might think they would need a warrant, but according to a 1986 law, not necessarily. In 1986, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act basically says the government can look at your e-mails without a warrant as long as those e-mails have been opened. Unopened e-mails can be read without a warrant as long they have been sitting in your inbox for more than 180 days.

Keep in mind this law was passed in 1986 when e-mail was not used anywhere to the extent it is today and was actually fairly new at that time. The ACLU did an investigation to see if the IRS is in fact doing this without a warrant, which it appears they are not.

In 2010, a Sixth Circuit appeals court ruled that warrants are required to read any e-mails whether they were opened or not. If you are thinking the Fourth Amendment protects you here, you would be wrong because communications that are stored electronically, like e-mail are not protected.

Bottom line, the IRS can and will look at your e-mails if they have reason to believe you are hiding something. The ACLU would like to see the IRS operate under Fourth Amendment guidelines, but whether they will is anybody’s guess.

This is just one more warning about how careful we need to be in today’s world with the type of information we share with each other and how we share it. The best play is to probably just assume that they might just be watching you, so don’t give them a reason…are you with me?


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