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Disclosure of Information Concerning Real Estate Transactions to the IRS

Adopted: April 17, 1987

Opinion rules that a lawyer may disclose information to the IRS concerning a real estate transaction which would otherwise be protected if required to do so by law, and further that notice of such required disclosure, should be given to the client and other affected parties.


Lawyer L frequently handles real estate transactions for his clients. Lawyer L has reviewed new federal tax law requirements. He believes that, as of January 1, 1987, he is required to file Form 1099 with the Internal Revenue Service for each real estate transfer in which he acts as the closing agent. That form would require that he provide the Internal Revenue Service with the sales price and tax identification numbers for the parties to the real estate transaction.

Lawyer L is concerned that he may be violating client confidences by disclosing the information required by Form 1099 to the Internal Revenue Service. If he must disclose this information, is he required to advise the parties to the transaction that the returns are being filed? Is it necessary to secure the permission of the clients in order to disclose that information?


Rule 4(c)(3) permits a lawyer to disclose confidential information if he is required by law to do so. Whenever Lawyer L is required by tax law provisions to provide certain information to the Internal Revenue Service, he may ethically do so. Since it is a legal requirement, the consent of the client, as such, is not required. Rule 6(b)(l) requires a lawyer to keep a client reasonably informed of the status of any matter and to comply promptly with requests for information. The comment thereto indicates that a lawyer is required to "fulfill reasonable client expectations for information...." Therefore, Lawyer L and other attorneys similarly situated should inform their clients, and other affected persons as reasonable and appropriate, when the lawyer must provide information to the Internal Revenue Service.

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