The Post's editorial, "Where Was the D.C. Tax Agency?" {Oct. 18} raised the question of whether D.C. tax liabilities can be ignored with impunity, and incorrectly identified me as "Harry" Thomas.

It appears that the political climate of recent weeks and the apparent need to dramatize events have resulted in media reports that substantially downplay or ignore the fact that much of the attention focused on the city's tax collection processes results from the effectiveness of these processes in identifying taxpayers who may not be in compliance with the tax laws. I would remind the reader that it was the success of one of these features of the department's collection and enforcement system that resulted in the media's heightened interest in the collection process.

While it is true that some noncompliance cases may be resolved in months, others will take longer. However, recent events reinforce the department's contention that the issue is not whether a person not in compliance will be detected, but when he or she will be detected.

The lien process is used in conjunction with other processes and essentially forms a safety net if other collection methods are not effective. Once a person not in compliance is identified and located, the department makes a full determination of the liability involved and takes the necessary actions to collect any indebtedness.

There is a perception with some that the government may have practiced favoritism regarding certain taxpayers. It is the opinion of this writer that a tax lien recorded in the public domain is hardly evidence of preferential treatment.

At the core of our repeated refusals of The Post's requests for information about specific tax accounts is the issue of confidentiality. Our confidentiality requirements are legally binding and intended to protect all taxpayers. Further, the accepted philosophy of tax professionals everywhere is that by vigorously protecting our audit and collection processes from disclosure, we protect the tax system itself from those who would abuse it if they had access to specific procedures. Thus by not releasing information we serve the interests of all honest, law-abiding taxpayers.

In addition to ensuring the integrity of the system by adhering to the confidentiality policy, we must honor the rules governing our participation in information-sharing programs between the District and other jurisdictions. We, along with other tax professionals across the country, believe that the government and the governed have a better working relationship when the former protects the confidentiality of the latter's private financial details. Therefore, we will not violate our legal and professional obligations by discussing the specifics of any taxpayer's account and plan no further comment.

HAROLD L. THOMAS Director Department of Finance and Revenue Government of the District of Columbia Washington