On March 2, 2018, President Trump nominated Michael Desmond to be the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Unfortunately, the Senate did not get around to confirming him. On January 16, 2019, President Trump renominated Mr. Desmond, and the US Senate Committee on Finance has scheduled a hearing for February 5th to consider his renomination.

The Chief Counsel is the top legal advisor to the IRS Commissioner on all matters pertaining to the interpretation, administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue laws. The Chief Counsel also provides legal guidance and interpretive advice to the IRS, Treasury and to taxpayers. Mr. Desmond clerked for Judge Ronald S.W. Lew of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. From 1995 through 2000, he served as a trial attorney in the Tax Division at the Department of Justice, and from 2005 through 2008 he served as tax legislative counsel at the Department of the Treasury, Office of Tax Policy.

Mr. Desmond has a strong reputation in the tax community, and we hope that his nomination is acted on immediately.

Clients ask us all of the time, “What is the Joint Committee on Taxation’s (JCT) process for reviewing refund claims granted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)?” Recently, the JCT has released an overview of its process. Wait, what? After the IRS has agreed to issue you a refund, there is a congressional committee that has to check the IRS’s work? Yep!

Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §6405 prohibits the IRS/US Department of the Treasury from issuing certain refund payments to taxpayers until 30 days after a “report” is given to the JCT. Only refunds “in excess” of $5 million for corporate taxpayers and $2 million for all other taxpayers (partnerships, individuals, trusts, etc.) are required to be reported to the JCT. A refund claim is an amount listed on an amended return (e.g., Forms 1140X and 1120X), tentative carrybacks (e.g., Forms 1139 and 1045), and refunds attributable to certain disaster losses. Numerous types of refund payments are excepted from JCT review, including refunds claimed on originally filed returns, resulting from litigation and employment taxes. It is important to note that this process is not limited to the IRS Examination stage; it can also occur at the IRS Appeals stage or even in tax court litigation. Continue Reading Joint Committee Releases Overview of Its Refund Review Process

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.”

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

September 4, 2018: The IRS reminded taxpayers that they have until September 28, 2018, to apply for the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

September 5, 2018: In response to taxpayer inquiries, the IRS clarified that taxpayers generally can deduct business-related payments to charities or governmental entities even if they also receive a state or local tax credit.

September 6, 2018: The IRS released a Practice Unit on “Determining an Individual’s Residency for Treaty Purposes.”

September 6, 2018: The IRS published Revenue Procedure 2018-47, which provides guidance to regulated investment companies regarding the application of the section 4982 excise tax to amounts included in income under the new Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 965 transition tax.

September 7, 2018: The IRS published Revenue Ruling 2018-25, establishing the interest rates applicable to over- and under-payments of tax.

September 7, 2018: The IRS released PMTA 2018-016, concluding that it can use it math error authority, not only on intake and before refunds have been issued, but also anytime within the three-year statute of limitations period under Code Section 6501(a).

September 7, 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 Kevin Hall in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

Presented below is our summary of significant IRS guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of August 27 – 31, 2018:

August 27, 2018: The IRS announced changes to its Compliance Assurance Process (CAP) program. We posted about the changes to CAP here.

August 28, 2018: In Notice 2018-70, the IRS announced that it will issue proposed regulations clarifying the definition of a “qualifying relative” for various purposes, including the new $500 credit for certain dependents.

August 30, 2018: The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review of a proposal to remove parts of the Internal Revenue Code Section 385 regulations, which address the treatment of debt among members of an expanded affiliated group.

August 31, 2018: The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2018-58, which includes the current list of jurisdictions subject to reporting requirements for certain deposit interest paid to nonresident alien individuals.

August 31, 2018: The IRS published statistics regarding US source income payments to foreign persons reported on Form 1042-S.

August 31, 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 Kevin Hall in our DC office for this week’s roundup.

On August 27, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that the Compliance Assurance Process (CAP) program will continue, with some modifications.  As we previously discussed, the IRS began an assessment of the CAP program in August 2016 to determine if any recalibration was needed.

CAP is an IRS program that seeks to identify and resolve tax issues through open, cooperative, and transparent interaction between the IRS and Large Business and International (LB&I) taxpayers prior to the filing of a return.  The goal of CAP is greater certainty of the treatment of tax positions sooner and with less administrative burden than conventional post-file audits.  The program began in 2005, and became permanent in 2011.  Several notable taxpayers publically disclose their involvement in the CAP program. Continue Reading IRS Announces That CAP Will Continue

On April 17, 2018, the Taxpayer Advocate, Nina E. Olson, testified before a Congressional Oversight Committee regarding on-going challenges to the administration of an efficient and effective tax system. Ms. Olson runs the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent office within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Taxpayer Advocate is appointed by and reports directly to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The office was created under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which became law on July 30, 1996. The office replaced the IRS Office of the Ombudsman. Continue Reading National Taxpayer Advocate Reminds Congress of IRS Deficiencies

A shrinking Internal Revenue Budget (IRS) budget has meant that fewer agents are available to make sure that the tax laws are being enforced. We have reported previously about how Congress has decreased the IRS’s budget.  In 2017, the audit rate fell to its lowest levels in 15 years because of a shrinking IRS budget and workforce. Indeed, your chance of being audited fell to 0.6% in 2017, the lowest rate since 2002. Similarly, tax collection levies fell 32% from the prior year, and the IRS filed 5% fewer liens year-over-year. Detailed information from the IRS can be found here.

Practice Point. The decreased funding of the IRS in the wake of bipartisan disagreements seems to have quelled in recent weeks. We have seen movement to get the IRS more funding in the wake of tax reform but it remains to be seen whether some of those funds will be used to increase the enforcement functions of the IRS. We anticipate, however, an increase in enforcement activity as a result of some of the positions taken by taxpayers in anticipation of tax reform and the myriad of interpretive questions that are expected to result from the new tax laws.

In January 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business & International (LB&I) Division released its announcement related to the identification and selection of its campaigns. The primary purpose of the campaigns was to end the resource intensive continuous audit program (where the LB&I audits a large taxpayer year after year for decades) and a move to an issue focused coordinated approach. LB&I originally identified 13 campaign issues and in November 2017, identified 11 additional campaigns and on March 13, 2018, identified 5 additional campaigns. We have extensively discussed LB&I’s campaign examination process including posts on Understanding LB&I “Campaigns”, Run for Cover – IRS Unveils Initial “Campaigns” for Audit, IRS Continues to Barrage Taxpayers with New Campaigns.

At the March 9 meeting of the Federal Bar Association Section on Taxation, an LB&I executive indicated that the rollout of the campaigns may have hit a snag. John Hinding, Director of Cross Border Activities at LB&I, reported that “the campaign work is still a minority of our work,” and its implementation has been slow going. According to Hinding, “A lot of the issue spotting that we’d like to do is driven by data analysis, and changes to systems to allow that is a lengthy process to get in place.” Continue Reading Are LB&I’s Campaigns Stuck in the Trenches?

In 2015, after repeated efforts by Nina E. Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, Congress enacted the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR) in Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 7803(a)(3). We have previously written about TBOR here, here and here.

Since TBOR was enacted, the IRS has issued information on its website regarding the 10 rights contained in Code Section 7803(a)(3). The IRS provides a summary of these rights. Additionally, the IRS has provided specific information on these rights. To summarize, the 10 rights are:

  1. The right to be informed.
  2. The right to quality services.
  3. The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax.
  4. The right to challenge the position of the Internal Revenue Service and be heard.
  5. The right to appeal a decision of the Internal Revenue Service in an independent forum.
  6. The right to finality.
  7. The right to privacy.
  8. The right to confidentiality.
  9. The right to retain representation.
  10. The right to a fair and just tax system.

Continue Reading Taxpayer Bill of Rights | Another Tool for Taxpayers?