Seattle -- A judge has ruled against the Internal Revenue Service in a Freedom of Information Act case, telling the agency to stop defying her previous orders and turn over statistical information to an outside researcher.

The case dates back to 1976, when graduate student Susan Long prevailed in a FOIA lawsuit against the IRS, and the agency had to begin providing her with audit and examination data. After the court order, Long used the IRS data to report on the IRS's performance for nearly 30 years.

However, in 2004, the agency stopped complying and refused to provide the information, claiming that the data would violate taxpayer privacy. Long, now a professor at Syracuse University and co-director of its Transactional Records Clearing House, filed suit in 2006. She obtained a court order from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington that ruled that the 1976 court order remains enforceable.

The ruling requires the IRS to turn over thousands of pages of agency statistics to TRAC, to produce data electronically and stop redacting the information, and to produce samples of other requested statistical information.

Long estimated that the IRS will initially have to turn over approximately 100,000 pages of statistical tables and probably 10,000 pages per month thereafter. The data will concern tax audits, including comprehensive details on the audits of individuals, detailed reasons for tax audits, how priorities have changed over time, how much time the IRS is spending on audits, and official priorities on large corporate audits, tax shelters and pass-through entities, providing a detailed picture of IRS policies and practices.

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