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Joshua (Josh) M. Ellenberg focuses his practice on US and international tax matters. Read Josh Ellenberg's full bio.

In Iames v. Commissioner, No. 16-1154, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the US Tax Court’s ruling that once a taxpayer has unsuccessfully challenged his tax liability in a preassessment hearing before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Office of Appeals, he is precluded from challenging his tax liability in a collection due process (CDP) hearing under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6330.

IRC Section 6330, enacted by Congress to protect taxpayers from abusive or arbitrary collection practices, provides a set of procedural safeguards for taxpayers facing a potential levy action by the IRS: notice, an administrative hearing and judicial review. More specifically, before collecting a delinquent tax through a levy on a taxpayer’s property, the IRS must notify the taxpayer at least thirty days in advance of his right to an administrative hearing before the IRS Office of Appeals. IRC Section 6330(a) and (b). After the Office of Appeals makes its determination, the taxpayer may then petition the Tax Court for judicial review. IRC Section 6330(d)(1).

In general, the taxpayer may raise “any relevant issue relating to the unpaid tax or the proposed levy” at the CDP hearing. IRC Section 6330(c)(2)(A). There are, however, certain restrictions as to the circumstances under which a taxpayer may bring a CDP challenge. Under IRC Section 6330(c)(2)(B), a taxpayer can dispute the existence or amount of the underlying tax liability but only so long as he “did not otherwise have an opportunity to dispute such tax liability.”

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In Thompson v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. No. 3 148 (2017), the US Tax Court confirmed that the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6662A penalty for reportable transactions is constitutional and does not violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment.

IRC Section 6662A(a) imposes a penalty on any “reportable transaction understatement.” A “reportable transaction understatement” generally refers to the difference between the increase in the amount of federal income tax that is calculated from the proper treatment of an item that results from a reportable or listed transaction and the taxpayers actually treatment of that item.  IRC Section 6662A(b). If a taxpayer fails to adequately disclose a reportable transaction giving rise to an understatement under IRC section 6662A, the penalty is imposed at a rate of 30 percent, and there are no available defenses. IRC Section 6662A(c). However, if a taxpayer sufficiently discloses the details of the transaction, the penalty rate is 20 percent of the amount of the reportable transaction understatement. IRC Section 6662A(a). In this latter instance, a taxpayer may avoid the penalty if he shows reasonable cause and good faith, as well as that there is substantial authority for a position he claimed on the tax return, and the taxpayer reasonably believed that such treatment was more likely than not the proper treatment of the transaction in question. IRC Section 6664(d)(1) and (3).

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Due to the enormous amount of electronic data stored by companies in the modern era, discovery requests can involve millions of documents which need to be reviewed prior to being turned over to the opposing party.  In conducting their analysis of this overwhelming quantity of information, litigants must, amongst other things, detect and exclude any privileged material.  Should a party inadvertently fail to do so before such records reach the hands of the opposing counsel, he/she will be deemed to waive privilege in many jurisdictions.  Given the massive quantity of data, however, such mistakes are practically unavoidable.

Federal Rule of Evidence (FRE) 502 was enacted in 2008 in an attempt to combat the issue of inevitable human error and the costs associated with parties’ efforts to avoid it.  FRE 502(d) allows parties to request the court to grant an order stipulating that a disclosure of privileged material does not waive any claims of privilege with respect to those documents.  If the court agrees to enter the order, it is controlling on third parties and in any other federal or state proceeding.

FRE 502(d) has led to the possibility of “quick peek” agreements where the parties give over all or a portion of their documents to opposing counsel without any privilege review whatsoever so that the recipient can identify which material he would like to retain.  The recipient, in turn, agrees not to assert a waiver claim on any document that the producing party intends to withhold from the requested documents as privileged.  These arrangements can dramatically ease the temporal and financial burdens of conducting a privilege review because they allow the producing party to focus only on those documents desired by the recipient while at the same time preserving their right to claim privilege on such documents.
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Following a report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) that criticized the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for failing to protect taxpayer financial information from cybersecurity threats, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has requested that US Congress give the IRS the power to license tax preparers.  Prior efforts by the IRS to regulate paid tax preparers