Emily A. Mussio advises clients on various aspects of United States and international tax law. She is experienced with tax controversy and litigation, and federal income tax covering individuals, corporate and partnership taxation. Read Emily Mussio's full bio.

The concept of limited scope representation is not a new one in the legal arena. Rule 1.2(c) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct provides that “A lawyer may limit the scope of the representation if the limitation is reasonable under the circumstances and the client gives informed consent.” This rule has been broadly embraced by states. The idea of limited representation in Tax Court cases has been floating around for years. It has mostly come up in the context of pro se taxpayers who appear at calendars calls. There may be one or more volunteers willing to assist the taxpayer but are unable to enter an appearance on the spot for various reasons (e.g., inability to conduct a conflicts search, uncertainty as to whether the taxpayer will be responsive in the future, inability to determine whether case has merit). In this situation, the volunteer is usually not allowed to speak on the taxpayer’s behalf to the Court to try to assist with resolving the case and handling procedural matters.

In 2018, Special Trial Judge Carluzzo and Special Trial Judge Panuthos invited suggestions for better assisting unrepresented and low-income taxpayers in the Tax Court. In response, the American Bar Association Section of Taxation recommended that the Tax Court consider amending its rules to permit counsel to enter an appearance for a limited time or purpose. At the time of the recommendation, approximately 69% of all Tax Court petitioners and 91% of petitioners in small tax cases were self-represented. The Section of Taxation pointed out that many self-represented petitioners before the Tax Court do not understand the law or court rules and therefore are unable to make an effective legal argument. This results in inefficiencies in the Tax Court, as well as inequality because the IRS is always represented by counsel.
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Andy Roberson, Kevin Spencer and Emily Mussio recently authored an article for Law360 entitled, “A Look At Tax Code Section 199’s Last Stand.” The article discusses the IRS’s contentious history in handling Code Section 199 and the taxpayers’ continued battle to claim the benefit – even after its recent repeal.

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On September 10, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division announced five new audit “campaigns.” These new campaigns follow: (1) the initial 13 campaigns announced on January 31, 2017; (2) followed by 11 campaigns announced on November 3, 2017; (3) five campaigns announced on March 13, 2018; six campaigns announced

On August 14, 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (DC District Court) decided Starr International Company, Inc. v. United States. In Starr International, the DC District Court held that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was not arbitrary or capricious in finding at least one of the taxpayer’s principal purposes for moving its residency to Switzerland was to obtain tax benefits under the US-Swiss Treaty.

Before discussing the facts and holding in Starr International, it is helpful to set the stage for the dispute. The United States has a bilateral tax treaty with a number of nations to avoid double taxation and encourage cross-border investments. Bilateral tax treaties provide benefits to residents of the two contracting states. The United States has a bilateral tax treaty with Switzerland (the US-Swiss Treaty). Treaty benefits under the US-Swiss Treaty are generally desirable for qualified taxpayers because treaty coverage reduces the tax on certain types of transactions, such as US-source dividend income for Swiss residents.

Article 1 of the US-Swiss Treaty provides, except as otherwise provided, the Treaty shall apply to persons who are residents of Switzerland. A person generally is treated as a resident of Switzerland if that person, under Swiss law, is liable to tax therein by reason of his domicile, residence or other similar criteria. However, Article 22, Limitation on Benefits, provides additional criteria to claim benefits provided for in the US-Swiss Treaty.

The Limitation on Benefits provision of the US-Swiss Treaty contains multiple objective tests to claim benefits provided for in the US-Swiss Treaty. All the tests provided in Article 22 aim to identify entities with legitimate, non-tax purposes for residency in Switzerland. This provision intends to stop taxpayers from “treaty shopping” and establishing residency in Switzerland with the principal purpose of obtaining benefits of the US-Swiss Treaty.


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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently offers non-compliant US taxpayers several different relief programs to report foreign assets and/or income to become compliant with US rules related to the disclosure of offshore income. See here for a link to the different options. The two main programs are the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (SFCP). The IRS launched the OVDP in 2012 to enable a taxpayer with undisclosed foreign income or assets to settle most potential penalties he may be liable for through a lump sum payment of 27.5 percent of the highest aggregate value of the taxpayer’s undisclosed foreign assets for the voluntary disclosure period, which is the previous eight years. The OVDP replaced prior offshore voluntary disclosure programs and initiatives from 2009 and 2011. OVDP has a number of filing and payment requirements, including paying eight years’ worth of accuracy-based penalties. The IRS updated and revised the OVDP in 2014.
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