by Ken Rankin

Washington - The Internal Revenue Service has directed federal tax auditors not to cooperate with key taxpayer efforts to increase security at their facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

New guidelines, issued by the agency to help IRS employees "deal with heightened security concerns and safety issues while working off-site," instruct field agents to refuse to cooperate with requests that they submit to background checks or produce more than one form of identification before being granted access to a taxpayer’s premises.

"Some building owners and tenants have increased their security and screening of personnel entering their premises and placed stringent requirements on anyone working or visiting them," the new guidelines explain. "This has resulted in some IRS employees being asked to provide private personal information or a second identification to be granted access."

Although tax service officials acknowledged "the necessity of such a process," they have directed IRS employees to refuse to comply because "it can have a negative impact on tax administration."

Ironically, the building security safeguards that tax service officials find so troubling are similar to the routine screening procedures in place for visitors to IRS headquarters and other federal government facilities.

But what’s good for the goose in IRS’s view, is not necessarily good for the gander.

"After employees properly identify themselves and display their government-issued identification, they cannot be required to provide private personal information be allowed access into a building," the new guidance states. "If required to enter a premise, IRS employees will provide their unique identifier number, office address, office telephone number, and manager’s name and telephone number."

The directive also instructs IRS employees not to allow "third parties or taxpayers to conduct a background investigation" in order to gain access to a building, unless such a procedure is required by a "unique situation."

IRS workers are also ordered not to "give up control of their government issued identification" or to allow this ID to be photocopied as part of a security screening.

The guidance further cautions tax service employees against allowing building security personnel to conduct a visual inspection of the contents of their "handbags or briefcases" if such a search could result in an "improper disclosure" of "sensitive information" to a third-party.

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