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Tax Analysts v. Internal Revenue Service

August 5, 2002

TAX ANALYSTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge

Document Nos. 24, 25, 26

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Tax Analysts ("the plaintiff"), a nonprofit corporation, brings this action under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552, seeking disclosure of certain records maintained by the Internal Revenue Service ("the defendant" or "IRS"). For the reasons that follow, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment and denies the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

Tax Analysts is a nonprofit corporation whose primary public education function is to publish and disseminate information concerning the "enactment and administration of the tax laws of the United States and the several states, the adjudication of tax cases by courts and other tribunals of the United States and the several states, and other subjects relating to taxation." Compl. at 1-2. On November 19, 1996, May 5, 1998, and December 1, 1998, Tax Analysts sent FOIA requests to the IRS. Id. at 3-4. It sought all records of the IRS relating to the Pacific Association of Tax Administrators ("PATA"), including its meetings, deliberations, decisions and staffing. Id. at 3. The PATA consists of the United States, Japan, Australia, and Canada. Id. PATA members discuss tax administration issues of joint concern, including cross-border tax avoidance, tax evasion, and other international tax issues. Id. at 2; Answer at 2. In addition, the December request specified the release of all records of the IRS relating to the "Group of Four" meetings ("G-4"), consisting of the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Compl. at 4. The IRS processed about 57,000 pages of responsive records, produced in whole or in part, and prepared an index identifying the withheld or redacted documents with the corresponding claimed exemption under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3), (5), and (6). Stipulation dated Oct. 15, 2001 ("Stipulation") at 1-2.

On February 17, 1999, Tax Analysts filed this suit for failure to produce all the information sought in the FOIA requests. Id. at 1, 5. Tax Analysts narrowed this case to only the claimed exemption under 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3), leaving exemptions 5 and 6 uncontested. Id. at 2. Some of the specific information requested includes the identification of the countries with respective documents, the disclosure of countries' representatives, and other material associated with a foreign country's tax law. Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. & Pl.'s Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n & Cross-Mot.") at 9-12.

On June 14, 2001, the court issued an order granting the plaintiff's motion to withdraw as moot its initial motion for partial summary judgment because Congress had recently enacted 26 U.S.C. § 6105 (2000), codifying treaty secrecy provisions such as the nondisclosure language in dispute here. Order dated June 14, 2001; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 2 n.3. Both parties now move the court for summary judgment. In short, they dispute whether the IRS can properly withhold the requested information pursuant to the treaty secrecy exemption set forth in 26 U.S.C. § 6105(c)(1)(E). Stipulation at 2.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are "material," a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the nonmoving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Id.

In addition, the nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Rather, the nonmoving party must present specific facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Greene, 164 F.3d at 675. If the evidence "is merely colorable, or is not significantly ...


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