On November 28, 2018, the IRS issued a memorandum to its Appeals division employees, providing guidance on how and where to conduct Appeals conferences with taxpayers. As we have previously reported, the IRS Appeals division has been in flux for the last several years constrained by limited resources, retiring Appeals Officers, and an ever-growing case load. Because taxpayers have a right to seek redress before an independent Appeals Officer, the IRS has been exploring different ways to use technology to hold virtual taxpayer conferences. Numerous taxpayers, however, continue to believe that an in-person conference is the most efficient and beneficial way to resolve their differences with the IRS. Apparently, the IRS recognizes this as well.

In a memorandum to Appeals employees, the IRS provides “interim” guidance for in-person conferences. The memo includes revisions to the Internal Revenue Manual. Of particular note is the ability of IRS Appeals to send cases to offices that can accommodate in-person conferences. Additionally, there is a clear mandate to hold Appeals conferences (upon approval of a manager) in “other federal buildings, when feasible and necessary to provide a conference opportunity.”

Practice Point: We are big fans of in-person Appeals Conferences. Although holding a conference over the phone or through some internet portal may save travel time and expense, it is typically a poor substitution for face-to-face negotiations. Consider how much easier it is to tell your daughter that she cannot go to the mall with her friends on the phone versus to an in-person plea! An Appeals Officer measures the settlement possibilities by a “hazards of litigation” standard. Part of that analysis may include sizing up the taxpayer and representative, their case, and willingness to “go all of the way.”

On December 10, 2018, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case of James L. Kisor v. Peter O’Rourke, Acting Secretary of Veteran Affairs, S.Ct. Dkt. No. 18-15. Although this is not a tax case, it has significant implications for taxpayers and tax practitioners. The reason: the Court will finally squarely address the issue of whether it should overrule its controversial opinions in Auer v. Robbins, 519 US 452 (1997) and Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co., 325 US 410 (1945). Those opinions held that an agency is uniquely positioned to interpret any ambiguity in its own regulations and, therefore, such interpretations should be afforded controlling deference so long as reasonable. The Court’s decision to grant certiorari in Kisor is significant because the sole question to be considered is “[w]hether the Court should overrule Auer and Seminole Rock” and not how to apply that doctrine.

In the tax context, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Tax Division have both argued that interpretations taken in unpublished guidance are eligible for Auer deference, even if such positions are articulated for the first time on brief in a pending case in which the agency is a party. Courts have not been uniform in their application of Auer. For example, the Tax Court has indicated that to receive deference the IRS’s position should be in published guidance while some courts have given deference to statements made on brief.

The death of Justice Scalia, who ironically wrote Auer but later advocated for its demise, seemed to strike a blow to those seeking to overrule it. However, with the recent additions of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, it appears that the Supreme Court many now have a majority of Justices in the anti-Auer camp given that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito have all expressed doubts about the doctrine in the past. Additionally, the continuing role of Chevron deference has been questioned and, if Auer is overruled, Chevron could be the next deference battleground.

We will continue to follow this case closely and provide updates in the future. In the meantime, the links below contain prior discussions on Auer and other forms of deference in the tax context.

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of December 3 – 7, 2018:

December 4, 2018: The IRS issued a news release granting taxpayers an extra day, until Thursday, December 6, 2018, to file any return or pay any tax originally due on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, in light of the Executive Order closing all federal agencies on December 5, 2018, as a mark of respect for President George H.W. Bush.

December 4, 2018: The IRS issued Notice 2018-95, providing transition relief from the “once-in-always-in” condition for excluding part-time employees under Treas. Reg. § 1.403(b)-5(b)(4)(iii)(B).

December 6, 2018: The IRS in Revenue Ruling 2018-32 released the interest rates for underpayments and overpayments applicable for the calendar quarter beginning January 1, 2019.

December 7, 2018: The IRS issued Notice 2018-97, providing initial guidance on the application of section 83(i) of the Code, enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which allows qualified employees of privately held corporations to defer paying income tax—for up to five years—on the value of qualified stock options and restricted stock units granted to them by their employers.

December 7, 2018: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Le Chen in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

Back in April, we discussed possible changes to the Tax Court Rules of Practice and Procedure based on comments made at the Tax Court Judicial Conference in Chicago. On November 30, 2018, the Tax Court announced the adoption of amendments to its Rules in several areas. Certain amendments are discussed below.

Payments to the Tax Court

Payments to court, which previously were required to be made by cash, check or money order, may now be made electronically through Pay.gov.

Filing

A paper may be filed electronically either during or outside of business hours, unless the paper relates to an ongoing trial session, in which case it generally must be filed at the session. A document electronically filed is considered timely if filed at or before 11:59 pm, Eastern Time, on the last day of the applicable period for filing. This amendment comports with the practice in other federal courts, e.g., US District Courts.

Signature

A signature on an electronic filing does not have to be handwritten if the filing meets the standards required by the court. An email address must be provided immediately beneath the signature.

Electronic Filing of Petitions

The court is in the process of implementing procedures to allow the electronic filing of a petition to commence a case. Additional information will be furnished to taxpayers on the Tax Court’s website in its electronic filings guidelines.

Evidence

In accordance with recent legislation, the Rules were updated to require that the court to follow the Federal Rules of Evidence instead of the rules of evidence applicable in trials without a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Passport Actions

In accordance with recent legislation, new Rules are provided regarding the court’s jurisdiction and review of determinations to certain passport revocation actions.

Interest Abatement

Certain changes were made to the interest abatement rules and a corresponding change was made to the sample form of petition contained on the Tax Court’s website.

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of November 26 – 30, 2018:

November 26, 2018: The IRS issued the proposed regulations under Code Section 163(j) regarding the limitations on business interest expense deductions after the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

November 26, 2018: The IRS released basic questions and answers regarding the limitations on business interest deductions under Code Section 163(j).

November 27, 2018: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2018-59, which provides a safe harbor that allows taxpayers to treat certain infrastructure trades or businesses as real property trades or businesses solely for purposes of qualifying as an electing real property trade or business under Code Section 163(j)(7)(B).

November 28, 2018: The IRS issued the proposed regulations under Code Section 904, providing guidance on the new foreign tax credits rules as amended by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

November 29, 2018: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2018-60, which provides the procedures to obtain the automatic consent of the Commissioner under Code Section 446 and Treasury Regulation Section 1.446-1(e) to change a method of accounting to comply with Code Section 451(b), as amended by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

November 30, 2018: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandum and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Alex Cheng-Yi Lee in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of November 19 – 23, 2018:

November 19, 2018: The IRS in a news release reminds taxpayers that the non-recognition treatment for like-kind exchanges under Code Section 1031 is now limited to certain exchanges of real property.

November 19, 2018: The IRS issued the final regulations under Code Section 267A on allocating costs to certain property produced or acquired for resale by a taxpayer.

November 19, 2018: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2018-56, expanding the list of changes of methods of accounting for which the taxpayers may obtain automatic consent under the regulations of Code Section 267A.

November 20, 2018: The IRS issued a notice to request comments on Form W-8CE, Notice of Expatriation and Waiver of Treaty Benefits, which the taxpayers use to notify expatriating payers of information necessary to determine the proper tax treatment of their payments.

November 20, 2018: The IRS in IRS Tax Reform Tax Tip 2018-179 advises that certain taxpayers may benefit from converting an S corporation into a C corporation due to the new, 21 percent tax rate.

November 23, 2018: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandum and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Alex Cheng-Yi Lee in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

On October 31, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released proposed regulations (REG-114540-18) (the Proposed Regulations) that would prevent, in many cases, income inclusions for corporate US shareholders of controlled foreign corporations (CFCs) under section 956. As a result, among other considerations, the Proposed Regulations could significantly expand the ability of corporate US affiliates to benefit from credit support of CFCs.

Read the full article. 

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of November 12 – 16, 2018:

November 14, 2018: The IRS Criminal Investigation Division released the 2018 Annual Report regarding its significant accomplishments and criminal enforcement actions taken in fiscal year 2018.

November 14, 2018: The IRS Advisory Council released its 2018 Annual Report, which addresses and provides recommendations for relevant tax administration issues.

November 14, 2018: The IRS in IRS Tax Reform Tax Tip 2018-176 provides a list of tax reform’s effects on itemized deductions under Code Section 63.

November 15, 2018: The IRS in a news release reminds small business owners of the benefits of the bonus depreciation and immediate asset expensing under Code Section 179, as amended by tax reform.

November 15, 2018: The IRS in Revenue Procedure 2018-57 provides the annual inflation adjustments, which cover 62 items including the tax rate tables.

November 16, 2018: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandum and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Alex Cheng-Yi Lee in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

Lately, we have been frequently asked the question: “I file US tax returns and pay taxes here. Are my cryptocurrency transactions taxable or reportable in the US?”

The answer for US persons and US taxpayers most likely is “yes.” US persons are generally taxable on income earned worldwide, regardless of the manner in which that income is paid (e.g. currency (foreign or domestic) or property (tangible, intangible or virtual)). Thus, if you have bought, sold or exchanged cryptocurrency, those transactions could be subject to federal tax. If your cryptocurrency is held offshore, a number of offshore reporting obligations could also apply to these holdings.

Now is the right time to come forward and resolve any US compliance issues related to your cryptocurrency holdings. As we have seen in recent cases like the Coinbase summons enforcement proceeding (which we reported upon in several previous posts), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has stepped up its enforcement efforts regarding undisclosed interests in cryptocurrency worldwide.

How should you come forward? Following an IRS-attended conference earlier this year, comments began circulating that the IRS was considering the creation of a formal voluntary disclosure program for cryptocurrency transactions, similar to the now-ended Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. (We reported on that program numerous times, here.) Unfortunately, the IRS has now squashed this rumor, stating that “IRS is not contemplating a separate program related to offshore [virtual] currencies.” A domestic program was not even mentioned.

Despite this news, a number of disclosure options remain available for bringing your US and foreign cryptocurrency into compliance. The IRS’s longstanding voluntary disclosure policy remains in full force and effect. This policy acts to reduce or eliminate the risk of criminal prosecution related to nondisclosure of domestic or foreign taxable assets, and can provide avenues to reduce civil penalties as well. Further, the IRS’s Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures and Delinquent International Information Return Procedures are still active and may provide reduced (or no) penalties for US international tax non-compliance in appropriate cases.

Practice Point: Beyond the short answer of “yes, cryptocurrency is taxable,” a number of open questions regarding the taxation and reporting of cryptocurrency in the US remain. For example, determining what offshore crypto holdings are subject to FBAR and Form 8938 reporting remains complicated and unclear. Also, although tax reform has eliminated the use of Section 1031 exchanges to avoid currently being taxed for personal property like cryptocurrencies, the IRS’s position on exchanges that occurred prior to 2018 is still unknown. There are also open valuation questions, particularly for crypto accounts subject to access limitations like lock-up periods. The tax treatment of so-called hard and soft “forks” is also unclear. Finally, crypto exchanges are navigating a number of open reporting and compliance issues. If you have significant holdings in cryptocurrency, consult with a federal tax advisor who understands the tax aspects of this unique asset to ensure your tax reporting is correct and complete.

Christopher Saddock, a secondee in the Firm’s Dallas office, also contributed to this article.

The Treasury and IRS recently issued proposed regulations under §951A.1 The regulations provide rules for determining the amount of the inclusion in a U.S. shareholder’s gross income of global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI).

The GILTI inclusion amount is the aggregate of a U.S. shareholder’s pro rata shares of tested income less tested losses from each directly and indirectly owned controlled foreign corporation (CFC), less 10% of its aggregate pro rata shares of qualified business asset investments (reduced by certain interest expense). 2 This article discusses the rules in the proposed regulations for determining a CFC’s tested income.

Read the full article.

Originally published in Bloomberg Tax: Tax Management International Journal, November 2018.