|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: September 5, 1997
You have the following question: Are the records that liquor wholesalers provide to the municipality under the law authorizing municipalities to impose a liquor inspection fee open to the public. The answer is probably no.
In support of that opinion, I am enclosing Tennessee Attorney General's Opinion 87-175. Written in 1987, it still reflects the current law, and is, I think, correctly reasoned. Although it applies to beer wholesaler's tax returns, it is still pertinent to your question.
Municipal liquor inspection fees derive from Tennessee Code Annotated, section 57-3-501 et seq., and do not directly involve the filing of a tax report to the Tennessee Department of Revenue. However, Tennessee Code Annotated, section 57-3-503, also calls the liquor inspection fee a "tax." For that reason, the report the wholesaler provides the city under Tennessee Code Annotated, section 57-3-301 et seq., is probably a tax report within the meaning of Tennessee Code Annotated, section 67-1-1701 et seq.
Tennessee Code Annotated, section 76-1-1702, says with respect to tax returns and "tax information" that:
Returns and tax information shall be confidential and, except as authorized by this part, no officer or employee of the state and no other person (or officer or employee thereof) who has or had access to returns or tax information under any provision of the law shall disclose any return or tax information obtained by such officer or employee in any manner in connection with such officer's or employee's service as such officer or employee, or obtained pursuant to the provisions of this part, or obtained otherwise.
That statute appears to be plenty broad enough to close to the public the liquor wholesaler's inspection reports it provides to a city.
Let me know if I can help you further in this or any other matter.
Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant