The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division continues to churn out new audit “campaigns.” For our prior coverage, please click here. The most recent set of campaigns were announced on April 16, 2019, bringing the grand total to 53 campaigns since the program’s initial release on January 13, 2017. The IRS explains that the goal of the campaigns is to “improve return selection, identify issues representing a risk of non-compliance, and make the greatest use of limited resources.”
The three new LB&I campaigns are listed below, verbatim by title and description.
Captive Services Provider Campaign
The section 482 regulations and the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines provide rules for determining arm’s length pricing for transactions between controlled entities, including transactions in which a foreign captive subsidiary performs services exclusively for the parent or other members of the multinational group.
The arm’s length price is determined by taking into consideration data available on companies performing functions, employing assets, and assuming risks that are comparable to those of the captive subsidiary.
Excessive pricing for these services would inappropriately shift taxable income to these foreign entities and erode the U.S. tax base. The goal of this campaign is to ensure that U.S. multinational companies are paying their captive service providers no more than arm’s length prices. The treatment streams for this campaign are issue-based examinations and soft letters.
Offshore Private Banking Campaign
U.S. persons are subject to tax on worldwide income from all sources including income generated outside of the United States. It is not illegal or improper for U.S. taxpayers to own offshore structures, accounts, or assets. However, taxpayers must comply with income tax and information reporting requirements associated with these offshore activities.
The IRS is in possession of records that identify taxpayers with transactions or accounts at offshore private banks. This campaign addresses tax noncompliance and the information reporting associated with these offshore accounts. The IRS will initially address tax noncompliance through the examination and soft letter treatment streams. Additional treatment streams may be developed based on feedback received throughout the campaign.
Loose Filed Forms 5471
Form 5471, Information Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations, must be attached to an income tax return (or a partnership or exempt organization return, if applicable) and filed by the return’s due date including extensions. Some taxpayers are incorrectly filing Forms 5471 by sending the form to the IRS without attaching it to a tax return (or partnership or exempt organization return, if applicable).
If a Form 5471 is required to be filed and was not attached to an original return, an amended return with the Form 5471 attached should be filed. The goal of this campaign is to improve compliance with the requirement to attach a Form 5471 to an income tax, partnership or exempt organization return.
Practice Point: Given the IRS’s limited resources, it is no surprise that its shift to issue-based examinations is a priority. As we have previously noted, taxpayers need to be aware of the campaigns and whether they have any issues that are the subject of a campaign. If taxpayers do have any issues that may be subject to the campaign, they should have an “audit ready” file on those issues, for when the IRS starts asking questions. We also note that, with respect to the Form 5471 campaign, Internal Revenue Code section 6501(c)(8) provides that the failure to file Form 5471 results in the statute of limitations remaining open for the entire return until three years after the date the IRS has furnished the required information. If the failure to furnish the information is due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect, the statute of limitations will remain open only to the item or items related to the failure.