Personal Property Tax

County Bulletin

TO:         ALL COUNTY AUDITORS - Bulletin No. 246

FROM:   Edgar L. Lindley, Tax Commissioner

DATE:    January 31, 1979

RE:        Confidentiality of Certain Tax Information

Several sections of the Ohio Revised Code provide for the confidentiality of personal property tax returns and supporting documents. County Auditors, as deputies and agents of the Tax Commissioner, must be cognizant of the types of information that are confidential and must take every precaution to insure that such information is not open to public inspection nor is revealed to unauthorized persons.

The basic code section prohibiting the divulging of information is Section 5703.21, which reads:

"No agent of the department of taxation, except in his report to the department or when called on to testify in any court or proceeding, shall divulge any information acquired by him as to the transactions, property, or business of any company, firm, corporation, person, association, partnership, or public utility while acting or claiming to act under orders of the department. Whoever violates this section shall thereafter be disqualified from acting as agent or in any other capacity under the appointment or employment of the department."

Sections 5715.49 and 5715.50 refer directly to County Auditors and their employees, and recite basically the same prohibitions. In addition to the above, other sections specifically enumerate documents which are confidential. The following property tax documents are not open to public inspection by reason of the code sections indicated:

                   Document                                                                 Code Section

All personal property tax returns and copies thereof. (this includes the tax return and all supporting schedules and exhibits) 


Financial statements and balance sheets Form 921)


Preliminary assessment certificates


Amended assessment certificates


Final assessment certificates


Certificates of valuation and distribution of public utility property



Section 319.34 of the Revised Code provides that the classified tax list and duplicate, whether in the possession of the County Auditor or the County Treasurer, is not open to public inspection. However, the general personal property tax list and duplicate and the real and public utility property tax list and duplicate are open to public inspection. On occasion, an agent or employee of the Internal Revenue Service will ask to view or copy certain confidential documents. The Department of Taxation and the Internal Revenue Service have a written agreement providing for the exchange of tax information. This agreement sets forth a specific procedure which agents from either office must follow in order to obtain information from the other. Internal Revenue Service agents should be advised to request confidential property tax information through the disclosure office at their district office. Under no circumstances should a County Auditor release confidential information to a representative of the Internal Revenue Service without written permission from the Tax Commissioner or his duly authorized representative. The Department of Taxation has no similar exchange agreement with other branches of the Federal government, other agencies of this state, or other local government agencies. Accordingly and unless otherwise specified by law, the confidential documents and information mentioned herein are not to be viewed or disclosed to any other elected or appointed state or local official or to their employees. Frequently a person claiming to represent a taxpayer will request a copy of a confidential document. Written authorization from the taxpayer to the County Auditor must be presented before a copy of the confidential document can be released.

Previous County Auditor Bulletins concerning this subject are hereby rescinded.