Legal Alert: Senate Finance Committee Hears Testimony on Proposal to Limit Access to Death Master File

On April 16, 2013, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on “Tax Fraud and Tax ID Theft: Moving Forward With Solutions,” including testimony on proposals to restrict access to the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File (DMF) as a means of protecting sensitive taxpayer identifying information.

As we previously reported, the Obama Administration’s budget package includes a proposal to limit DMF access. Sen. Bill Nelson (D - FL) introduced legislation to implement the Administration’s proposal. Senate Bill 676 (or the “Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2013”) would curtail public access to DMF data for a period of time after an individual’s death, by prohibiting the Secretary of Commerce from “disclosing DMF information to any non-governmental person or entity with respect to any individual who has died at any time during the calendar year in which the request for disclosure is made or the succeeding 2 calendar years.” Exempted from this prohibition are individuals who, pursuant to a certification program created by the new law, are authorized by the Secretary of Commerce to immediately receive DMF information. Responsibility for the release of DMF information would vest with the Commerce Secretary upon the issuance of a memorandum of understanding following the law’s enactment.

Although Senate Bill 676 provides only limited information about the proposed certification program, it does make clear that among those who would be eligible to be certified are entities requiring DMF access to “facilitate timely and proper administration by such person of an insurance policy or benefit program,” as described below...

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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