By Chris Lutz and Carley Roberts

The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that the Kentucky Department of Revenue must publish final administrative rulings, even when those rulings are not appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals. The Office of Attorney General had previously determined that the Department’s decision not to provide even redacted copies of final rulings in administrative protests was supported by Kentucky law, which prohibits or restricts disclosure of certain taxpayer information. After a trial court held that all rulings should be disclosed, the Department appealed, contending that final rulings not subsequently appealed should not be subject to inspection because they contain private taxpayer information that is not otherwise a matter of public record and that cannot easily be segregated from non-exempt information.

Ruling against the Department, the Court of Appeals concluded that the Department had “taken an unreasonably and overly broad view of” the state’s privacy laws. The court explained that final rulings by the Department must contain a general statement of the issues in controversy and the Department’s position with respect to those issues; “[c]onsequently, the substantive portions of final rulings contain a wealth of information relative to the implementation of [Kentucky’s] tax laws.” Because redacting the rulings would sufficiently protect the privacy of the taxpayers involved in the rulings, the Open Records Act requires their publication. Finance and Administration Cabinet v. Sommer, No. 2015-CA-001128-MR (1/13/2017).