IRS TO PAY FOR INFORMATION DISCLOSURES: A judge has ordered the Internal Revenue Service to pay more than $250,000 after determining that an IRS agent disclosed confidential information during a criminal investigation.

A U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the agent, Robert Jackson, made dozens of illegal disclosures of taxpayer information while interviewing witnesses in an investigation into illegal immigrant workers in the Ozarks.

In July 2001, the IRS began investigating National Sales, a business providing housekeeping workers for hotels in the Ozarks. The owner, Leonard Snider, and a recruiter for his business, Theresa Turley, still remain under investigation by a grand jury for nonpayment of taxes, employment of undocumented aliens and the filing of false identification documents.

According to the court's ruling, Jackson told potential witnesses in the government's case that the trio were under investigation, outlining the charges in some cases and, in others, telling people that the business had previously been investigated for tax fraud and hiring illegal aliens.

Jackson said that witnesses in the case inferred the information from his line of questioning. He also argued that the disclosures were within recognized exceptions to the law. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said that the government was disappointed with the decision and may appeal.

Snider and Turley sued the government, saying that Jackson violated an IRS rule barring the disclosure of taxpayer information. Snider, who lost his business, was awarded $132,000; Turley received $87,000; and the defunct National Sales was given $31,589. The bulk of those settlements were in punitive damages, as the judge found the disclosures to be willful.

CONSORTIUM TELLS IRS TO MOVE FASTER WITH E-FILING INITIATIVES: The Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee, the consortium that is charged with advising the Internal Revenue Service on its e-filing strategy, is exhorting the service to accelerate its previously announced plans to update its e-filing process. In its annual report to Congress, the ETAAC advised the IRS to move up its planned funding for an updated 1040 e-file form to its 2008 fiscal year.

Several years ago, the IRS had set a target of having 80 percent of all returns e-filed by the year 2007. The service said that over the 2005 filing season, some 66 million returns were filed electronically, a 17 percent rise from the previous year, which hovered at the 50 percent level.

CCH, RIA RESPOND WITH ANALYSIS OF ENERGY, TRANSPORTATION ACTS: Tax information providers CCH and RIA both released comprehensive explanations and practical analyses of the tax provisions contained in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005.

The energy act will provide more than $14.5 billion in tax incentives to oil, gas and renewable energy companies over the next decade. Consumers, members of the housing industry, and car and appliance manufacturers may also benefit from the provisions in the new law. The transportation act contains a handful of miscellaneous provisions covering items such as the extension of fuel taxes, repeal of the harbor maintenance tax on exports, modification of the gas-guzzler tax and a cap on the excise tax on fishing rods. Both bills were passed by Congress recently and await President Bush's signature.

CCH's guide will be available to CCH Tax Internet Research NetWork subscribers, as well as for print and CD subscribers of CCH's federal tax services. Free online tax legislation updates at www.tax.cchgroup.com will also be provided through CCH Tax Briefing newsletters and daily legislative updates. CCH will also publish two books on the provisions. Online order forms for the publications can be found at CCH's online store, www.onlinestore.cch.com.

RIA posted highlights of the energy act on its Checkpoint platform within 24 hours of the act's Senate passage on July 29. The company's complete analysis was available on Checkpoint on Aug. 1. In a statement, Mark Schlageter, executive vice president and chief operations officer for Thomson Tax & Accounting, said that the 32-page RIA guide, Highlights of the Energy Tax Act of 2005, would be available in print by early August, and a more comprehensive version, RIA's Complete Analysis of the Tax Provisions of the Energy and Transportation Acts of 2005, was expected to ship Aug. 7. More information can be found at RIA's Web site, www.ria.thomson.com.

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