Information on earnings obtained through data exchanges with the Internal Revenue Service, National Directory of New Hires, or the Social Security Administration is confidential.
Client records are private and must not be used for personal, political, or business reasons. Information is to be used by the Department, contracted providers, and others strictly for the administration of the programs, with certain exceptions specified by law. Whenever client information is given to another agency or governmental department, inform them that the information must be kept confidential.
Procedures for Protecting Confidentiality
During non-work hours, the FCRC Administrator or Financial Recovery Coordinator (FRC) shall place confidential earnings information (both unverified and verified) in a locked desk, room, file cabinet, or safe.
Staff must take measures to guard against unauthorized disclosure of confidential earnings information. Unauthorized disclosure is defined as using or allowing anyone to use or see the information for any purpose other than the administration of DHS programs. Staff may share the information (or the source of the information) with the client to determine its accuracy.
Penalties for Unauthorized Disclosure
The penalties for unauthorized disclosure include the following:
- Unauthorized disclosure of Federal tax return information may be punishable by a $5,000 fine, 5 years imprisonment, or both.
- A taxpayer may bring suit for civil damages for unauthorized disclosure of tax return information.
- In the case of willful disclosure or gross negligence, punitive damages may be allowed as well as the cost of the action.
These penalties apply even if the unauthorized disclosures are made after employment with the agency has been terminated.
DHS employees are subject to additional restrictions under the Taxpayer Browsing Protection Act. The Act provides a criminal misdemeanor penalty for the willful unauthorized access or inspection of Federal tax information. Tax information includes all returns and return information maintained in either paper or electronic format.
Penalties for Unauthorized Inspection
- Willful unauthorized inspection of Federal tax return information shall be punishable upon conviction by a fine in an amount not exceeding $1,000, or imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.
- For each act of unauthorized inspection, upon a finding of liability, a cause of action for civil damages may be established. These damages could amount to $1,000 or actual damages, whichever is greater. In the case of gross negligence or a willfully unauthorized inspection, punitive damages may also be assessed.