The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Business and Financial Records

Reference Number: MTAS-436
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: March 22, 2013
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Many of these types of records are confidential as they are covered by statutory exemptions outside the act. They include:

  • Proprietary information acquired by the Department of Economic and Community Development (See T.C.A. §§ 4-3-712, et seq.);
  • Information contained in examinations, reports, applications, credit, investments, financial statements, and balance sheets (T.C.A. § 45-7-216);
  • Trade secrets, patentable information, proprietary information, and commercial or financial information used in university research (T.C.A. § 49-7-120);
  • Trade secrets and other information disclosed to or obtained by the Department of Labor pursuant to enforcement of occupational safety and health laws (T.C.A. § 50-3-504, 914); and
  • Information containing or revealing trade secrets obtained by the commissioner of labor while enforcing the Hazardous Chemical Right to Know Law (T.C.A. § 50-3-2013).

The names and addresses of owners and agents on business licenses are public record; however, other information appearing on business tax returns and license applications is confidential. T.C.A. § 67-1-1702.

Case law suggests that the disclosure of information that would result in the disclosure of tax return information is protected from disclosure.  McClane Co., Inc. v. State, 115 S.W. 3d 925 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002).

A 1996 Tennessee attorney general opinion stated that unpublished telephone numbers that were confidential under the terms of a contract between a private telecommunications carrier and a municipal utility were nonetheless public record. Furthermore, a municipal contract requiring the confidentiality of these numbers is void against public property. Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. 96-144.

Contracts cannot affect the availability of otherwise public records. Contemporary Media, Inc. v. City of Memphis, 1999 WL 292264  (Tenn. Ct. App., 1999).