Weekly IRS Roundup September 13 – 17, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of September 13, 2021 – September 17, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

September 13, 2021: The IRS issued a news release concerning resources available to help small businesses learn their employer tax responsibilities and to help their employees.

September 13, 2021: The IRS postponed various tax filing and payment deadlines for victims of Hurricane Ida in parts of Pennsylvania. Victims now have until January 3, 2022, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.

September 14, 2021: The US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the IRS published a notice and request for comments concerning the interest rates and appropriate foreign loss payment patterns for determining the qualified insurance income of certain controlled corporations under IRC § 954(f). Written comments should be received on or before November 15, 2021.

September 14, 2021: The IRS issued a news release reminding employers about a valuable tax credit available to them for hiring long-term unemployment recipients and other groups of workers facing significant employment barriers.

September 15, 2021: The Treasury and the IRS published a notice and request for comments concerning forms related to foreign account tax compliance act registration (FATCA), including Forms 8966, 8957, 8966-C, 8809-I and 8508-I. Written comments should be received on or before November 15, 2021.

September 16, 2021: The IRS issued a news release reminding taxpayers who asked for an extension to file their 2020 return that they should file on or before October 15, 2021, to avoid the penalty for filing late.

September 16, 2021: The IRS published a practice unit concerning the limitation of exchange gain or loss on payment or disposition of debt instrument.

September 16, 2021: The Treasury and the IRS published a notice and request for comments on Revenue Procedure 99-17 that prescribes the time and manner for dealers in commodities and traders in securities or commodities to elect to use the mark-to-market method of accounting under IRC § 475(e) or IRC § 475(f). Written comments should be received on or before November 15, 2021.

September 16, 2021: The Treasury and the IRS published a notice and request for comments on Revenue Procedure 2003-33, which provides qualifying taxpayers with an extension of time—pursuant to Treasury Regulations Section 301.9100-3—to file an election described in IRC § 338(a) or IRC § 338(h)(10) to treat the purchase of a corporation’s stock as an asset acquisition. Written comments should be received on or before November 15, 2021.

September 17, 2021: The Treasury and the IRS published a notice and request for comments on forms used by business entity taxpayers, including Forms 1065, 1066, 1120, 1120-C, 1120-F, 1120-H, 1120-ND, 1120-S, [...]

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The Results are in: IRS Appeals Retains Discretion to Continue to Allow Exam Teams and Chief Counsel to Attend Conferences

The IRS Independent Office of Appeals (IRS Appeals, Appeals) has seen many changes over the past several years. One of the more controversial and publicized change related to the 2017 pilot program to test whether inviting Large Business & International (LB&I) exam teams and Chief Counsel attorneys to engage with taxpayers and their representatives at the IRS Appeals conference would improve Appeals’ ability to work large, complex cases. The pilot program technically applied only to IRS Appeals’ largest and most complex cases, however, the IRS also revised the Internal Revenue Manual to provide IRS Appeals with discretion to invite exam teams and Chief Counsel attorneys to any conference. The pilot program ended on May 1, 2020, and the IRS has been gathering feedback and data from multiple sources (both within and outside the IRS) to determine the effectiveness of the program.

The results are in, as reflected in the recently released Appeals Team Case Leader Conferencing Initiative: Summary of Findings and Next Steps (IRS Appeals Summary). Generally, IRS Appeals Officers found that the exam team’s participation improved their understanding of the dispute and helped them identify, narrow and resolve factual and legal differences between the parties before engaging in settlement negotiations with taxpayers. On the other hand, some taxpayers expressed concerns over the presence of exam teams and Chief Counsel attorneys because they found it hindered the ability to resolve cases without litigation and required more concrete ground rules before the start of the conference.

The IRS Appeals Summary concluded that the process was generally helpful and that IRS Appeals would be given discretion to invite exam teams and Chief Counsel attorneys to attend the IRS Appeals conference in the future. In exercising such discretion, the Appeals Officer must consider several factors and solicit and consider both the taxpayers’ and the exam team’s views as to whether joint participation would be helpful.

Practice Point: Our experiences with the exam team and Chief Counsel attorneys attending the IRS Appeals conference has been mixed. Similar to concerns raised by other taxpayers, we have seen certain IRS personnel repeatedly interrupt the taxpayer during the presentation of their case and offer the exam team’s views of an acceptable settlement. However, we have also seen situations where the IRS Appeals Officer has been able to hold IRS personnel accountable by questioning factual and legal positions. In any event, exam team participation is here to stay and LB&I taxpayers and their representatives need to be aware of the new ground rules in this area.

Prior coverage of changes within the IRS Appeals can be accessed below.




Weekly IRS Roundup September 6 – September 10, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of September 6, 2021 – September 10, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

September 7, 2021: The US Department of the Treasury and the IRS issued Notice 2021-53, which provides guidance to employers on reporting the amount of qualified sick and family leave wages paid to employees in 2021 on Form W-2.

September 7, 2021: The IRS announced that the deadline for third quarter estimated tax payments is September 15, 2021.

September 8, 2021: The IRS postponed various tax filing and payment deadlines for victims of Hurricane Ida in parts of New York and New Jersey. Victims now have until January 3, 2022, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments for deadlines that occurred starting on September 1, 2021.

September 9, 2021: The IRS postponed various tax filing and payment deadlines for victims of Hurricane Ida in parts of Mississippi. Victims now have until November 1, 2021, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments that were originally due October 15, 2021.

September 10, 2021: The IRS announced that the cost of home testing for COVID-19 is an eligible medical expense that can be paid or reimbursed under health flexible spending arrangements, health savings accounts, health reimbursement arrangements or Archer medical savings accounts.

September 10, 2021: The IRS issued temporary regulations authorizing the assessment of any erroneous refund of employment tax credits paid under Internal Revenue Code § 3131, 3132 and 3134.

September 10, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Emily Mussio in our Chicago office for this week’s roundup.




IRS Acknowledges Limitations on Use of Outside Contractors in Audits

Several years ago, it came to light that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had hired a law firm to assist with transfer pricing matters in an ongoing audit of a large corporate taxpayer. Contemporaneous with that hiring, the IRS issued temporary regulations providing that third-party contractors “may receive books, papers, records, or other data summoned by the IRS and take testimony of a person who the IRS has summoned as a witness to provide testimony under oath” and “clarifying that contractors are permitted to participate fully in a summons interview.” We previously discussed this highly controversial position here.

Congress seemingly disapproved of the IRS practice of outsourcing legal and audit services to private law firms. In 2019, it enacted Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 7602(f) as part of the Taxpayer First Act. That provision prohibits the IRS from hiring outside contractors for purposes other than providing “expert evaluation and assistance” and specifically prohibits non-IRS employees from questioning witnesses under oath. However, no definition was provided as to the meaning “expert evaluation and assistance.”

The IRS recently finalized regulations (applicable to summonses served on after August 6, 2020) providing taxpayer-favorable guidance on the meaning of “expert evaluation and assistance.” Under the final regulations, the IRS may not engage outside legal counsel unless the attorney is hired by the IRS for expertise in (A) foreign, state or local law, (B) non-tax substantive law that is relevant to an issue in the examination, or (C) knowledge, skills or abilities other than providing legal services as an attorney (such as a translator). In addition, the final regulations prohibit IRS contractors from asking a witness (or his or her representative) to clarify an objection or assertion of privilege, as well as from asking questions to witnesses generally, when the witness is under oath.

Practice Point: The final regulations provide helpful guidance to taxpayers regarding the role that outside contractors can play in IRS audits and provide a much-needed deterrent on the IRS’s outsourcing of audits to private law firms. However, taxpayer who believe that the IRS is using outside counsel may want to request in writing a list of all third parties that the IRS contacts during the course of the examination.




IRS Releases Fact Sheet on Acceptable Electronic Signatures

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a fact sheet, providing guidance on acceptable methods for taxpayers to electronically or digitally sign certain paper forms that they cannot file electronically. In order to provide taxpayers with greater flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS previously announced taxpayers may use digital signatures for certain forms through the end of 2021. The newly released fact sheet is the first guidance as to what constitutes an acceptable electronic signature.

The fact sheet notes that the IRS is balancing the flexibility of electronic signatures with security and fraud protections. Electronic signatures accepted by the IRS include:

  • A name typed on a signature block
  • A scanned or digitized image of a handwritten signature that is attached to an electronic record
  • A handwritten signature input onto an electronic signature pad
  • A handwritten signature, mark or command input on a display screen with a stylus device
  • A signature created by a third-party software

Additionally, the IRS will accept images of electronic signatures provided the image is a file type supported by Microsoft Office, such as .jpg, .pdf and .tiff.

The fact sheet provides a list of paper-filed forms—which cannot be e-filed—where a taxpayer may use an electronic signature:

  • Form 11-C, Occupational Tax and Registration Return for Wagering;
  • Form 637, Application for Registration (For Certain Excise Tax Activities);
  • Form 706, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return;
  • Form 706-A, U.S. Additional Estate Tax Return;
  • Form 706-GS(D), Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Return for Distributions;
  • Form 706-GS(D-1), Notification of Distribution from a Generation-Skipping Trust;
  • Form 706-GS(T), Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Return for Terminations;
  • Form 706-QDT, U.S. Estate Tax Return for Qualified Domestic Trusts;
  • Form 706 Schedule R-1, Generation Skipping Transfer Tax;
  • Form 706-NA, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return;
  • Form 709, U.S. Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return;
  • Form 730, Monthly Tax Return for Wagers;
  • Form 1066, U.S. Income Tax Return for Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit;
  • Form 1120-C, U.S. Income Tax Return for Cooperative Associations;
  • Form 1120-FSC, U.S. Income Tax Return of a Foreign Sales Corporation;
  • Form 1120-H, U.S. Income Tax Return for Homeowners Associations;
  • Form 1120-IC DISC, Interest Charge Domestic International Sales – Corporation Return;
  • Form 1120-L, U.S. Life Insurance Company Income Tax Return;
  • Form 1120-ND, Return for Nuclear Decommissioning Funds and Certain Related Persons;
  • Form 1120-PC, U.S. Property and Casualty Insurance Company Income Tax Return;
  • Form 1120-REIT, U.S. Income Tax Return for Real Estate Investment Trusts;
  • Form 1120-RIC, U.S. Income Tax Return for Regulated Investment Companies;
  • Form 1120-SF, U.S. Income Tax Return for Settlement Funds (Under Section 468B);
  • Form 1127, Application for Extension of Time for Payment of Tax Due to Undue Hardship;
  • Form 1128, Application to Adopt, Change or Retain a Tax Year;
  • Form 2678, Employer/Payer Appointment of Agent;
  • Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method;
  • Form 3520, Annual Return To Report Transactions With Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts;
  • Form 3520-A, Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust With a U.S. Owner;
  • Form 4421, Declaration – [...]

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