Civil Division – New Castle County
September 27, 1995
Del. Op. Atty. Gen. 95-IB30 (Del.A.G.), 1995 WL 794497
(permitting the Director of the Division of Revenue, the state agency charged with administering and enforcing Delaware tax laws, to access Social Security numbers maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles)
Michael O. McCann
Department of Public Safety
P.O. Box 818
Dover, DE 19903
Re: Use of Social Security Number Records by State Division of Revenue
Dear Mr. McCann
You have asked our office to review the August 3, 1995 letter of William M. Remington, Director of the Delaware Division of Revenue (“Revenue”) requesting access to Social Security numbers from the records of the Division of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) pursuant to 21 Del. C. § 305. Mr. Remington stated in his letter that this information is required by Revenue for the enforcement of the State’s revenue laws. See, 30 Del. C. ch. 5. Mr. Remington further stated that he understands that Revenue could access the information through its computer network by reading DMV files residing on the mainframe computers at the Office of Information Systems (“OIS”). For the following reasons, we conclude that the Social Security records are
accessible through OIS computers by simply reading the DMV files contained in the OIS files.
We previously opined on this issue on June 26, 1990. We concluded that the federal statute that existed at that time, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(i) and (iii) barred the disclosure of Social Security number records to the Division of State Police. We based our conclusion, inter alia, fact that stated purpose for which the State Police intended to use the Social Security records was not for use in accordance with the permissible uses outlined in the statute. We cited 42 U.S.C. § 405 which provided as follows:
(C)(i) It is the policy of the United States that any state (or political subdivision hereof) may, in the administration of any tax, general public assistance, driver’s license or motor vehicle registration law within its jurisdiction, utilize the Social Security account numbers issued by the Secretary for the purposes of establishing the identification of the individuals affected by such law, and may require any individual who is or appears to be so affected to furnish such state (or political subdivision thereof) or any agency thereof having administrative responsibility for the law involved, the Social Security account number (or numbers, if he has more than one such number) issued to him by the Secretary. (Emphasis supplied).
Recently, a State statute was enacted allowing disclosure of Social Security numbers by the Division of Motor Vehicles under
certain conditions. See, 21 Del. C. § 305.1 That statute provides in part, as follows:
§ 305. Registration, license and driver’s performance records.
(a) All vehicle title, vehicle registration, driver license and driver performance records, which are 3 years old or less in the offices of the Division of Motor Vehicles shall be made available to the following named persons or agencies:
(1) Governor; Lt. Governor; members of the General Assembly; Secretary of Public Safety, law enforcement officers; members of the judiciary; probation officers; governmental agencies when required for their official duties.
(2) Other non-governmental agencies, firms or persons which the Division determines has the right to know, for professional or business use only, information from such records through manual or telecommunication methods; other persons as approved by the Director; persons requesting their own records.
(b) Persons other than those named in subsection (a) of this section shall personally appear and present evidence of identification satisfactory to the Division and shall state the purpose for which the
information is being sought. Such information shall not be available by telephone or methods of request other than by personal appearance unless approved by the Director or his designee. The official or agent of the Division allowing the inspection of the record or copy of the record shall make a record of the inspection or copy showing the name and address of the person making the request, the agency which the requestor represents, the date of the inspection of the record, the information provided, and the purpose for which the information was sought. A request identifying any vehicle owner from the registration plate shall be specifically noted. This record shall be maintained by the Division for a period not to exceed 6 months. (Emphasis supplied).
In Doyle v. Wilson, 529 F.Supp 1343 (D. Del. 1982),2 a case we cited in the June 26, 1990 Attorney General’s opinion denying access to Social Security records to the State Police, the District Court concluded as follows:
The 1976 amendment to the Social Security Act, adopted after the passage of Privacy Act, furnishes an additional exception to the statutory protection generally accorded to those people who refuse to disclose their Social Security numbers. That amendment states:
(i) It is the policy of the United States that any State (or political subdivision thereof) may, in the administration of any tax, general public assistance driver’s license, or motor vehicle registration law within its jurisdiction, utilize the Social Security account numbers issued by the Secretary for the purpose of establishing the identification of individuals affected by such law, and may require any individual who is or appears to be so affected to furnish to such State (or political subdivision thereof) or any agency thereof having administrative responsibility for the law involved, the Social Security account number (or numbers, if he has more than one such number) issued to him by the Secretary. (Emphasis supplied).
* * * *
(iii) For purposes of clause (i) of this subparagraph, an agency of a State (or political subdivision thereof) charged with the administration of general public assistance, driver’s license, or motor vehicle registration law which did not use the Social Security account number for identification under a law or regulation adopted before January 1, 1975, may require an individual to disclose his or her Social Security number to such agency solely for the purpose of administering the laws referred to in clause (i) above. (Emphasis supplied)
529 F.Supp. at 1349.
It is clear that the exception relating to the administration of any tax referred to in subsection (i) is not included in the provisions in subsection (iii) requiring a law or regulation be adopted before January 1, 1975. According to Mr. Remington’s August 3, 1995 letter, Revenue is seeking the Social
Security number records for the3 administration of State revenue tax, a permissible purpose under 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(i) and (iii). The District Court’s two- prong analysis in Doyle which required that the records “be incident to the administration of a state driver’s license or motor vehicle registration law or be required under a statute or regulation adopted prior to January 1, 1975” does not apply if the purpose for which the will be used is the administration of a tax. Chrysler Corp. v. State, Del. Supr., 457 A.3d 345 (1983); see also, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(v) (as amended) (tax purpose is omitted from two-prong analysis). Doyle v. Wilson, 529 F.Supp. at 1349.
The federal government’s policy as articulated in 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(1) clearly provides that any state may in the administration of any tax, require an individual to furnish his or her Social Security number to the state. Additionally, the General Assembly has enacted 21 Del. C. § 305(a)(1) and (2) allowing access to Social Security numbers to government agencies under state law.
Since Revenue is statutorily charged with the administration and enforcement of the State’s revenue tax, we find the request valid for Social Security number records under 21 Del. C.
§ 305(a)(1) and (2). According to the representations contained in Mr. Remington’s August 23, 1994 letter, the DMV may reasonably conclude, pursuant to 21 Del. C. § 305(a)(2), that Revenue has “the right to know…for professional or business use only” the requested Social Security numbers.
We have also reviewed the recently enacted provisions of the Delaware Code in subchapter IV, chapter 63, Title 29 recreating the Office of Information Systems in the Budget Office. While this statute gives plenary power to OIS to contract for the purchase and lease of computer systems by state agencies, as well as to establish policies, standards and guidelines for their use, we find no provisions that would prohibit Revenue from accessing OIS for purposes of obtaining Social Security numbers from DMV. See, 29 Del. C. § 6532(a)(1)-(8).4 Given the broad authority contained in 42 Del. C. § 405(C)(i) as well as the applicable State law, 21 Del. C. § 305(a)(1),(2), we conclude that the DMV may allow access the Social Security numbers as outlined in Mr. Remington’s letter through OIS.
If you have any further questions, please contact our
Very truly yours
John K. Welch
Deputy Attorney General
Michael J. Rich
The Honorable Karen L. Johnson
J. Brett Taylor, Executive Assistant
Department of Public Safety
William M. Remington, Director
Division of Revenue
Peter A. LaVenia, Director