In Mrvich v. Midland Funding, LLC, 2017 WL 5999058, at *2–4 (S.D.Cal., 2017), Magistrate Judge Porter denied production of an FDCPA Plaintiff’s tax returns to test whether the debt was consumer or commercial in nature.
Defendant moves to compel production of Plaintiff’s federal and state income tax returns for the years 2010 to 2012, and her federal and state income tax returns for any year that references the computer at issue in this case. First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s tax treatment of the computer is relevant to the determination of whether the financial obligation at issue qualifies as a “debt” or “consumer debt” under the FDCPA and Rosenthal Act. (ECF No. 27 at 3-4.) A “debt” under the FDCPA, and a “consumer debt” under the Rosenthal Act. . .[and that] the information is relevant to Plaintiff’s request for actual damages, as she alleges she originally purchased the computer “in order to take classes, for which she paid tuition and was never able to complete.”. . .The Court agrees that Plaintiff’s tax returns for the years 2010 through 2012 are not relevant to the issue of actual damages, based on Plaintiff’s allegations in the Complaint. Moreover, to the extent Defendant seeks information as to what tuition was paid and which classes were taken, that information is readily obtainable from other sources. For example, in Defendant’s Requests for Production, Defendant requested all documents related to Plaintiff’s allegation that she originally purchased the computer at issue in order to take classes for which she paid tuition and was never able to complete, and Plaintiff agreed to produce such documents without objection. (See Imanaka Decl. at Exh. B, Request No. 12; see also Exh. D.) In addition, as Plaintiff points out, these records would be readily obtainable from the college Plaintiff attended and Defendant has made no attempt to subpoena Plaintiff’s college records. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant’s motion to compel on the basis the tax returns are relevant to the issue of actual damages.  Debt.  As to Defendant’s argument that the tax returns are relevant to establishing whether the obligation at issue incurred was “primarily for personal, family, or household purposes” or for a business or other purpose, Plaintiff first argues that none of the exceptions to the California taxpayer privilege apply. (ECF No. 27 at 8-9.) As stated above, the California taxpayer privilege does not apply to Plaintiff’s tax returns in this action. Therefore, this argument is moot. Next, Plaintiff argues that Defendant has failed to meet the federal standard for the production of her tax returns. (Id. at 9-10.) She argues that Defendant has failed to establish relevancy, and “makes no serious attempt” to establish that there is a compelling need for the returns because the information is not readily attainable from alternative sources. (Id. at 10-11.)  Plaintiff argues, and Defendant does not dispute, that there is no indication Plaintiff ever had a business, particularly at the time Plaintiff purchased the computer. (Id. at 11.) As such, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant’s “claimed basis is too attenuated to be relevant.” (Id.) Even if the Court were to find the tax returns relevant, Plaintiff argues there is no compelling need because the information is readily attainable from other sources. (Id. at 12-13.) Plaintiff contends the information can be obtained from Plaintiff’s college or from Plaintiff herself, and Defendant has not attempted to subpoena Plaintiff’s education records or depose Plaintiff.  Defendant, as the party seeking production, bears the burden of first showing relevancy. See A. Farber & Partners, Inc., 234 F.R.D. at 191. The Court agrees that the purpose of the computer purchase is relevant to Plaintiff’s claims; however, it does not find Defendant has established that Plaintiff’s tax returns are relevant to determining that purpose. Defendant has not deposed Plaintiff or otherwise determined through interrogatories – or a public records search – that Plaintiff had a business at the time. Thus, any relevancy is highly speculative at best.  Moreover, Plaintiff has demonstrated that other sources exist from which the information is readily obtainable. Plaintiff can testify as to her intended purpose, and her school records – the classes she was taking or was signed up for at the time1 – can also be readily obtained to corroborate her testimony. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant’s motion to compel the production of Plaintiff’s tax returns for this reason as well.