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Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)
Requester Service Center

FOIA Background

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), U.S.C. 552 provides individuals with a right to access to records in the possession of the federal government. FOIA pertains to existing records only and does not require agencies to create new records to comply with a request. It also does not require agencies to collect information they do not have or to do research or analyze data for a requestor.

If you'd like to see a copy of the FOIA, U.S.C. 552, visit the HHS FOIA website.

In addition, FOIA requests must be specific enough to permit an IHS employee who is familiar with the subject matter to locate records in a reasonable period of time.

The government may withhold all or parts of the requested information pursuant to guidelines that has been set for the application of one of more of the nine FOIA exemptions.

Quick Reference -- Nine FOIA Exemptions

  • Exemption 1: Information properly classified as secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy
  • Exemption 2: Protects certain records related solely to IHS' internal rules and practices.
  • Exemption 3: This exemption is used for personal information that would also fall under other applicable public access laws such as Privacy Act and HIPAA.
  • Exemption 4: Protects the use of proprietary information and any other information which may harm the competitive standing of a business.
  • Exemption 5: Protects information that would allow insight into the Agency’s deliberative process, and/or any material that could be construed as attorney/client working papers. Also, any information that would be Inter-Agency or Intra-Agency would be withheld also.
  • Exemption 6: Redaction using this category would be any personal information such as home address, Social Security Numbers, etc.
  • Exemption 7: Protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes.
  • Exemption 8: Contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports concerning financial institutions.
  • Exemption 9: Geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning oil wells.