The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been accused of spying on email communications of US citizens without obtaining warrants.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that a recent Freedom of Information request it submitted to the IRS returned more than 280 pages of documents which suggest that when investigating potential cases of tax fraud, it often views email communications without permission from the court.
At issue is whether the IRS is complying with legal requirements set forth in a landmark ruling in 2010 which mandated that when investigating tax fraud, IRS agents must obtain the same legal clearance as other law enforcement agencies.
"The documents the ACLU obtained make clear that, before [that ruling], it was the policy of the IRS to read people’s email without getting a warrant," said the ACLU.
"Not only that, but the IRS believed that the Fourth Amendment did not apply to email at all."
The ACLU noted that while it is not certain of wrongdoing, a review of the documents lead the organisation to believe that the IRS does at times snoop on email communications without obtaining a warrant.
"This question is too important for the IRS not to be completely forthright with the American public," the ACLU said in its report.
"The IRS should tell the public whether it always gets a warrant to access email and other private communications in the course of criminal investigations."
At the time of publication the IRS had yet to respond to a request for comment on the matter.
The allegation come amid the height of the US tax season. With the deadline fast approaching, Americans have been rushing to file their returns in order to avoid penalties.
That rush to file, however, can often leave users playing right into the hands of scammers who use phishing pages, fake notices and other tricks to obtain financial information from victims.
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