Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Employees Can't Use IRS Computers for Craigslist, eHarmony, Facebook, Foursquare, Gmail, TaxProf, Twitter, Yelp

IRS Logo The IRS's Office of Chief Counsel has issued CC-2011-016 (July 22, 2011):

Under the terms and conditions defined in this Notice, Counsel employees will be allowed limited personal use of government computers and systems. Employees should note that the privilege of using Government office equipment (including information technology) for non-governmental purposes comes with restrictions as specified in this policy....

It is the policy of the IRS Chief Counsel to:

A. Allow employees the privilege to use government information technology equipment /
resources for other than official Government business, when such use involves minimal
additional expense to the government ...

B. Permit such limited personal use during non-work time for reasonable duration and
frequency of use.


A. Employees are expected to conduct themselves professionally in the workplace and to refrain from using government information technology equipment / resources for activities that are inappropriate based on established standards of conduct. ...

B. Prohibited uses of government technology, equipment and resources by employees (even non-work time) include, but are not limited to:

1. Downloading, copying, or installing of unauthorized application (e.g., executable code) or any program not explicitly approved or permitted by the organization(s) with
responsibility for managing data programs, such as:
a) Screen savers,
b) Software products,
c) “Push” technology applications (subscriber services) from the Internet (e.g.,
weather or news alert feeds, stock quote updates) that gather information and send it
out automatically to a subscriber,
d) Test or demo software, and
e) Computer games.

2. Personal communication on blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook,
MySpace, Yahoo! 360°, Twitter, etc.;

3. Viewing or accessing the following types of web sites:
a) Pornographic, sexually explicit, or sexually oriented materials (including creation,
download, viewing, storage, copying of such materials); or
b) Personal services web sites, such as Personals & Dating and Craigslist. ...

6. On-line games;

12. Any use that could generate more than minimal additional expense to the government
(e.g., subscribing to unofficial LISTSERV or other services which create a high-volume
of e-mail traffic);

14. Any use that reduces productivity or interferes with the performance of official duties;

15. Any access to personal e-mail accounts through the Internet (e.g. accessing personal
AOL accounts, hotmail accounts or company accounts through Office of Chief Counsel
internet firewall);

18. Inappropriate use of IRS e-mail account(s), such as:
a) Transmitting files larger than 5 megabytes,
b) Any correspondence for personal gain (Avon, private commercial business, selling
of personal goods or services, etc),
c) Solicitation of employees, such as Girl Scout or Boy Scout fund raisers, and
d) Chain letters or other unauthorized mass mailings regardless of the subject matter;

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I'm a state of California employee, and websense has blocked taxprof at one time or another. If I recall, it had something to taxprof being a "blog."

Posted by: Rob | Aug 4, 2011 8:24:41 PM

I can see the "no listserv" from TaxProf angle. but is it any different from getting TNT or BNA DTR automatically sent to your inbox? or guidewire and numerous IRS "listservs" of its own?

again, i think it is mostly the reminder/rehashing of no porn, no gambling, no gmail, and no excessive use of google maps and

Posted by: tax guy | Jul 27, 2011 5:53:52 PM

Treat your (extremely well educated) employees like professionals and they will act professionally. I can't believe Chief Counsel management took the time to issue this. Did they analyze internet usage before putting their heads together on this? As an employee, I can state that gmail, facebook, twitter, and foursqaure are blocked, but not Craig's List and TaxProf.

Posted by: anonymous | Jul 27, 2011 11:25:35 AM

As an IRS employee, I believe I'm authorized to get the taxprof email, especially since it's job-related. I've been with the Service seven years; to my knowledge, we never could use internet mail services, Facebook or MySpace.

Consistent with most large businesses, including my former employer, the IRS removes the games, including Solitaire, from Windows before issuing a computer.

Posted by: Elmer Stoup | Jul 27, 2011 8:59:04 AM

Memo from the real world:

Using "government information technology equipment" is so 20th Century.

Today, you bring your own wi-fi laptop or G4 phone.

Posted by: Bob | Jul 27, 2011 8:46:31 AM

At one point, TaxProf was blocked from IRS employees, but after the employees complained, the block was removed. This is a useful site that I check every day in addition to Tax Analysts and Lexis.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 27, 2011 6:32:23 AM

Can IRS employees still play solitaire?

Posted by: Woody | Jul 26, 2011 10:21:00 PM

The TaxProf email listserv presumably is banned under this language: "subscribing to unofficial LISTSERV or other services which create a high-volume of e-mail traffic."

Posted by: Paul Caron | Jul 26, 2011 7:54:09 PM

The Notice seems to rehash a lot of old material (no porn, no gambling, no personal email).

I fail to see where or how TaxProf Blog is banned from being viewed. (Paul: you know that being "Banned in Boston" is the best free press anyone could ask for. If TaxProf is blocked or not permissible viewing 100% (like porn) then you may get a whole bunch of people curious about the site who never knew it existed.)

Dear John:

This notice seems to apply only to Chief Counsel employees (not IRS employees). No worries, I am sure there is a virtually identical policy in place for IRS (non-Chief Counsel) employees that forbids porn and the like as well. And I am sure that you will remain a distraction to them. And I am sure it is looking at the weather, and not desktop computers from 1999, that is what makes IRS computer systems slow.

(Year after year the IT budget for the IRS gets slashed and it is wildly insufficient as it is. It is no wonder that the computers work like they are from the stone age.)

Posted by: tax guy | Jul 26, 2011 7:49:39 PM

Social network sites can be a very informative investigative tool.

Posted by: Javert Freeman | Jul 26, 2011 7:13:03 PM

Hey Dave, as an IRS employee, I can tell you that if I seem distracted, it's because I have alot of work to do answering stupid questions from people who call me with the attitude that I have nothing better to do.

Posted by: Tax Lawyr | Jul 26, 2011 6:51:55 PM

I take it AshleyMadison would be a nonstarter?

Posted by: mike livingston | Jul 26, 2011 4:31:17 PM

This notice is long-overdue. I don't know how many times I have been on the phone with an IRS representative who seems completely distracted with some other task (probably fooling around on Facebook). Also, the IRS computer systems are notoriously slow - probably due in part to all the unofficial business being conducted on IRS computers. I hope the IRS has also put in place a good oversight program to make sure this notice does not get tucked away and forgotten. I hope the managers will enforce it.

Posted by: John Wetenkamp | Jul 26, 2011 4:29:16 PM

As a Counsel attorney, Yelp may be prohibited for certain uses, but most people just use it to look up restaurant reviews. To me, that doesn't seem to be prohibited.

Posted by: Dave | Jul 26, 2011 1:51:50 PM

We still have access to the Tax Prof Blog....and this posting is evidence.

Posted by: Prof D | Jul 26, 2011 12:21:23 PM