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Weekly IRS Roundup December 6 – December 10, 2021

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

December 6, 2021: The IRS published updated guidance on requesting estate tax closing letters and transcript request procedures.

December 6, 2021: The US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a semiannual report to US Congress, summarizing the accomplishments of the TIGTA from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. The TIGTA’s Office of Audit completed 52 audits, and its Office of Investigations completed 1,430 investigations. Its combined audit and investigative efforts resulted in the recovery, protection and identification of monetary benefits totaling more than $9 billion.

December 6, 2021: The IRS issued guidance for employers regarding the retroactive termination of the Employee Retention Credit. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was enacted on November 15, 2021, amended the law so that the Employee Retention Credit applies only to wages paid before October 1, 2021 (unless the employer is a recovery startup business).

December 7, 2021: The IRS published a news release encouraging taxpayers to take important actions this month to help them file their federal tax returns in 2022, including special steps related to Economic Impact Payments and advance Child Tax Credit payments. A special page, updated and available on IRS.gov, outlines the steps taxpayers can take now to make tax filing easier next year.

December 7, 2021: The IRS published frequently asked questions (FAQs), providing guidance on what certain pass-through businesses should do in the absence of updated forms for the 2021 tax year. The tax year 2021 forms, to which Schedules K-2 and K-3 must be attached, have not yet been finalized. The FAQs address questions concerning whether Schedules K-2 and K-3 must be attached to tax year 2020 forms for partnerships or S corporations with 2021 short tax years or, in the case of Form 8865, filers of Form 8865 with 2021 short tax years.

December 7, 2021: The IRS published a memorandum providing interim guidance for in-person conference procedures. The guidance provides that the IRS Independent Office of Appeals (IRS Appeals) will use its best efforts to schedule the in-person conference at a location that is reasonably convenient for both the taxpayer and the IRS Appeals. This guidance does not modify any temporary procedures in place due to COVID-19.

December 8, 2021: The IRS released guidance for IRS Appeals employees working Tax-Exempt/Government Entities (TE/GE)-sourced cases. For TE/GE-sourced cases in which a taxpayer or representative raises a new issue, provides new information or advances a new theory or an alternative legal argument to the IRS Appeals, the IRS Appeals employee is required to follow the instructions provided by the IRS.

December 10, 2021: The [...]

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IRS Provides Guidance to LB&I Examiners on Requesting Participation in Appeals Conferences

We recently covered the Appeals Team Case Leader Conferencing Initiative: Summary of Findings and Next Steps (Appeals Summary) in relation to the participation of Large Business & International (LB&I) exam teams and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Chief Counsel attorneys in conferences before the IRS Independent Office of Appeals (IRS Appeals). As discussed, the Appeals Summary concluded that IRS Appeals would be given discretion to invite exam teams and Chief Counsel attorneys to attend IRS Appeals conferences in the future. In determining whether such discretion should be exercised in a case, the Appeals Summary states that both the taxpayers’ and the exam teams’s views should be solicited and considered.

In a November 8, 2021, memorandum (LB&I Memorandum), the Acting Assistance Deputy Compliance Integration for the LB&I Division Theodore D. Setzer provided guidance to LB&I employees on requesting participation. The LB&I Memorandum reflects the LB&I Divisons’s view that participation in certain IRS Appeals conferences is important for fostering effective tax administration and assisting IRS Appeals in resolving tax controversy on a basis which is fair and impartial to taxpayers and the government. Thus, LB&I employees “should continue to request to be invited where LB&I participation would help improve understanding of factual and legal differences in a case.” The LB&I Memorandum directs LB&I employees to consider the following nonexclusive list of factors before making a request to attend an IRS Appeals conference:

  • The case is factually complex;
  • History has shown lack of meeting of the minds regarding the underlying facts or legal positions;
  • The taxpayer’s characterization of LB&I’s position in the formal written protest is not accurately stated and participation by both the taxpayer and LB&I at the Appeals conference will assist Appeals in both bridging the lack of understanding and better understanding the case;
  • The taxpayer has presented multiple legal arguments or authorities that it relies on to support its position;
  • The case involves outside experts or expert opinions;
  • The case involves an issue of importance to tax administration, such as a case of first impression; one involving the interpretation of a new statute or regulation when there are no reported opinions or when published guidance is pending or where precedent is otherwise absent or conflicting; one affecting large numbers of taxpayers or an industry; or one falling within an operating division’s major strategic goal;
  • The case involves an issue in which the Government seeks to distinguish a position set forth in published guidance;
  • The case involves an issue coordinated under strategic compliance/coordination initiative such as LB&I campaigns or
  • A tax shelter case involving a “Listed Transaction” or substantially similar transaction within the meaning of Treas. Reg. 1.6001-4(b)(2), or a “Transaction of Interest” under Treas. Reg. 1.6011-4(b)(6).

The LB&I Memorandum states that a participation request must be made in one of two ways. The first is by indicating the request on Form 4665, Report Transmittal. According to Internal Revenue Manual Section 4.10.8.12.6 (03-25-2021), Form 4665 is used to [...]

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Weekly IRS Roundup October 4 – October 8, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of October 4, 2021 – October 8, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

October 4, 2021: The IRS released a practice unit, providing tax law and audit steps for reviewing a reseller’s uniform capitalization cost computations under section 263A. The practice unit focuses on the simplified production method and does not cover the final section 263A Treasury Regulations that were effective November 20, 2018.

October 4, 2021: The IRS published a news release, announcing 18 self-study seminars available online through the IRS Nationwide Tax Forums. The seminars cover topics such as the gig economy and virtual currency.

October 4, 2021: The IRS published instructions for Form W-8BEN (Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting (Individuals)) concerning:

  • Guidance under section 1446(f) (withholding on partnership interest dispositions)
  • New lines 6a and 6b (addressing foreign tax ID number (FTIN) matters)
  • Tax treaty benefits claims (requiring representations)
  • Section 6050Y reporting (covering life insurance contracts and reportable death benefits)
  • Electronic signatures (updated to reflect new guidance)

October 5, 2021: The IRS published a news release, announcing that Free File remains available through October 15 for taxpayers who still need to file their 2020 tax returns. Free File is the IRS’s public-private partnership with tax preparation software industry leaders to provide their brand name products for free.

October 5, 2021: The IRS released a memorandum, expanding the criteria for collection due process cases that qualify for a rapid response appeals process under IRM 8.22.6.2 and related subsections.

October 5, 2021: The IRS released a memorandum concerning interim guidance regarding the IRS Independent Office of Appeals’ steps and procedures for its nationwide pilot program: The Appeals Electronic Case Files Initiative for Large Business & International (LB&I) report generation software (RGS) examination cases. This guidance is applicable to LB&I RGS International Individual Compliance cases only and excludes other large cases such as Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 cases, Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 cases and Syndicated Conservation Easement cases.

October 5, 2021: The IRS released a memorandum updating procedures where an organization requests a change in a section 501 subsection during the application process by submitting one application form to replace a different application form. The procedures are effective 30 days after issuance of the memorandum and supersedes those in TEGE-07-0421-0010 (April 29, 2021).

October 7, 2021: The IRS published a program letter indicating that, in Fiscal Year 2022, Tax Exempt (TE)/Government Entities (GE) commissioners expect to invest in new resources to expand outreach to the exempt sector as well as increase their enforcement staff.

October 8, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written [...]

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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.




Biden Spending Proposal Calls for 10% IRS Budget Increase

The Biden Administration has requested a $1.2 billion increase in funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as part of its proposal for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 2022) discretionary funding released in a letter from Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Shalanda Young on April 9, 2021. The additional funding would bring the IRS FY 2022 budget to $13.2 billion, which represents a 10.4% increase over the 2021 enacted budget.

The additional funding would be used to increase IRS enforcement, especially for oversight of high-income individuals and corporate tax returns to ensure compliance with existing tax laws. The discretionary request also seeks an additional $417 million to fund a multiyear tax enforcement initiative aimed at increasing tax compliance and revenues. In total, the discretionary request would increase resources for tax enforcement by nearly $1 billion. Other funds appropriated to the IRS would be used for development and improvement of online tools and better telephone and in-person customer service for taxpayers.

Apart from IRS spending, the discretionary spending proposal includes $191 million for the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to create a database that tracks the ownership and control of certain companies and organizations.

The discretionary spending proposal is intended as a starting point for congressional appropriators and will be followed by the president’s full budget proposal—including tax changes and pay-fors—later in the spring.

Practice Point: We believe that the US Congress is likely to appropriate additional funds for tax enforcement in the FY 2022 budget. Taxpayers should begin preparing for additional IRS audits and scrutiny of return positions. Such preparation may include examining prior tax return positions and ensuring they have audit-ready files.




Weekly IRS Roundup March 22 – March 26, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Serve (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of March 22, 2021 ­­– March 26, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

March 22, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-22, providing guidance on various interest rates relevant to employee benefit plans.

March 22, 2021: The IRS issued a news release announcing that the next batch of Economic Impact Payments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) would be issued to taxpayers this week.

March 24, 2021: The IRS issued a news release confirming, as previously announced, the disbursement of approximately 37 million Economic Impact Payments, bringing the total amount of disbursements under ARPA to approximately 127 million payments worth approximately $325 billion.

March 25, 2021: The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2021-19, providing guidance on median gross income figures, used by certain issuers of mortgage bonds and mortgage credit certificates.

March 25, 2021: The IRS issued a news release summarizing the proceedings from “The Challenge,” a meeting (held virtually this year) of the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement (J5) regarding international coordination on tax crimes.

March 25, 2021: The IRS issued a news release noting the one-year anniversary of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and pledging the Criminal Investigation Division’s continued commitment to investigating COVID-19 fraud.

March 26, 2021: The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2021-17, providing guidance on average residence purchase prices, used by certain issuers of mortgage bonds and mortgage credit certificates.

March 26, 2021: The IRS released Revenue Procedure 2021-18, providing state and local governments in which an empowerment zone is located with an automatic procedure for extending the empowerment zone designation under section 1391(a).

March 26, 2021: The IRS issued Announcement 2021-5, announcing that the United States and Japan have entered into an arrangement regarding the implementation of the arbitration process provided for in the 2003 US-Japan tax treaty.

March 26, 2021: The IRS issued Announcement 2021-7, notifying taxpayers that amounts paid for personal protective equipment for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19 are treated as deductible medical expenses under section 213.

March 26, 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 Le Chen in our Washington, DC, office for this week’s roundup.




Exxon Prevails in $200 Million Tax Penalty Case

On January 13, 2021, the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in favor of Exxon Mobil Corporation (“Exxon”) in its battle against the government over tax penalties. Exxon filed amended returns for its 2006-2009 tax years seeking a $1.35 billion tax refund based upon a change of character of certain transactions (from mineral leases to purchase transactions). The government disallowed the refund claims and imposed a $200 million penalty pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 6676. Exxon paid the penalty and filed suit for a refund.

We have written extensively concerning IRC section 6676, warning taxpayers of this potential landmine. See, e.g., Taxpayers Should Prepare for the Next Penalty Battleground” Roberson, Spencer and Walters, Law360 (May 21, 2019) and “Expect More Civil Tax Penalties—So, Now What?” Roberson and Spencer, Tax Executive (Sept. 27, 2019). To recap, IRC Section 6676 was enacted in 2007 in response to the high number of meritless refund claims being filed at the time. It imposes a 20% penalty to the extent that a claim for refund or credit with respect to income tax is made for an “excessive amount.” An “excessive amount” is defined as the difference between the amount of the claim for credit or refund sought and the amount that is actually allowable. For example, if the taxpayer claims a refund of $2 million and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows only $1 million, the taxpayer can still be penalized $200,000.Significantly, IRC section 6676 does not require the IRS to show any fault or culpability on the part of the taxpayer—e.g., negligence, disregard of rules or regulations, etc. IRC section 6676(a) originally provided a “reasonable basis” defense (which is applicable to the Exxon case), but in 2015 Congress amended the statute and now requires a showing of “reasonable cause.” Neither the Code nor the regulations provide for any other defense to the IRC section 6676 penalty. Moreover, the penalty is immediately assessable, meaning taxpayers cannot fight the IRS in a pre-payment forum like the US Tax Court but must first pay the penalty and seek redress in a refund form.

In Exxon, the government argued that the court should overlay a subjective element on “reasonable basis,” as the US Circuit Court for the Eighth Circuit did in Wells Fargo & Co. v. United States, 957 F.3d 840 (8th Cir. 2020). Our prior coverage of this case can be found here. The Exxon court declined the invitation. Instead, the court explained IRC section 6676 “focuses on whether the claim had a reasonable basis, not on whether the taxpayer had a reasonable basis.” The court agreed with Exxon that its position in the refund claim that its transactions were purchases was reasonable based on the relevant authorities. It further found that the company had “colorable support for its legal contention that a change that affects whether, not when, an item comes into income is not [...]

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2020’s Key Tax Controversy Developments

In the face of the pandemic and all the challenges that came with 2020, tax controversy marched on. In this article, we explore several important cases, including one of the most closely watched Supreme Court cases, CIC Services LLC v. Internal Revenue Service, which raises important questions regarding the scope of the Anti-Injunction Act and impacts the ability of taxpayers to engage in preenforcement challenges to regulations.

We also look into the latest updates in the transfer pricing area, changes to the Compliance Assurance Process, what to expect during the audit of a campaign issue and more.

Read the full article.




Weekly IRS Roundup August 24 – August 28, 2020

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of August 24, 2020 – August 28, 2020. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

August 24 2020: The IRS published a memorandum concerning guidance to the field on the criteria that should be applied in considering if a request for designation for litigation should be made to the Office of Chief Counsel. The memorandum also provides interim guidance on the requirements of Section 1001 of the Taxpayer First Act (TFA) with respect to the limitation on designation of cases as not eligible for referral to the IRS Independent Office of Appeals.

August 25, 2020: The IRS published a Summer 2020 Statistics of Income Bulletin. The Summer 2020 Bulletin focuses individual income tax shares, 2017; foreign recipients of US income, calendar year 2017; effects of post-filing adjustments on Statistics of Income (SOI) estimates; and implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

August 25, 2020: The IRS published a practice unit focusing on the definition of foreign earned income for purposes of section 911.

August 26, 2020: The IRS published a notice and request for comments on Treasury Decision 8702 concerning certain transfers of domestic stock or securities by US persons to foreign corporations. The regulation relates to certain transfers of stock or securities of domestic corporations pursuant to the corporate organization, reorganization or liquidation provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). Transfers of stock or securities by US persons in tax-free transactions are treated as taxable transactions when the acquirer is a foreign corporation, unless an exception applies under section 367(a). The regulation provides that no US person will qualify for an exception unless the US target company complies with certain reporting requirements. The comments should be received on or before October 26, 2020.

August 26, 2020: The IRS published a notice and request for comments on Treasury Decision 8612 concerning the availability of the gift and estate tax marital deduction when the donee spouse or the surviving spouse is not a US citizen. The regulation provides guidance to individuals or fiduciaries: (1) for making a qualified domestic trust election on the estate tax return of a decedent whose surviving spouse is not a US citizen in order that the estate may obtain the marital deduction; and (2) for filing the annual returns that such an election may require. The comments should be received on or before October 26, 2020.

August 27, 2020: The IRS published an announcement on the opening of the application period for the 2021 Compliance Assurance Process program. The application period runs September 1 to November 13, 2020. The IRS will inform applicants if they’re accepted into the program in February 2021.

August 28, 2020: The IRS published
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Skip Jail and Clean Up Your Tax Problems

If you have knowingly failed to report income or claimed deductions you know you are not entitled to, or just decided not to file your tax returns and pay the tax owed, you may be liable for civil penalties and even jail time for criminal tax evasion. Taxpayers with civil and criminal tax exposure may want to fix their past mistakes but are afraid of what will happen if they “come clean.” So, the majority of offenders keep offending year after year. But did you know there is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) program that can help taxpayers get out of that “evasion” cycle, and clean up past tax issues, usually without criminal liability?

The IRS has a longstanding program through which taxpayers can make voluntary disclosures of tax underreporting and tax criminal evasion. Such disclosures may help taxpayers limit their criminal exposure, although disclosure does not automatically guarantee immunity from criminal prosecution.

The latest iteration of the voluntary disclosure program is known as the Voluntary Disclosure Practice (VDP). (Here is a link to the IRS’s VDP program description.) Under the terms of the program, a taxpayer must submit Part I of Form 14457, Voluntary Disclosure Practice Preclearance Request and Application, which contains basic identifying and procedural information necessary to determine if the taxpayer is eligible to participate in the VDP program. The IRS uses this information to verify that the taxpayer is not already under criminal investigation, which is a bar to entering into the VDP program. Once the taxpayer has been “precleared,” the taxpayer must submit Part II of Form 14457, which seeks detailed information regarding the nature of the tax reporting failures and the associated unpaid tax liabilities. If the taxpayer is approved to participate in the VDP program, the taxpayer’s case is transferred to the appropriate IRS civil division for examination. Ultimately, the taxpayer must cooperate with the IRS to determine its correct tax liability and must make good faith arrangements to pay all unpaid liabilities, including interest and penalties. Typically, this will include the filing of corrected tax returns for six years; the payment of the correct tax and interest for those returns; and the payment of enhanced penalties for one tax year.

The current version of Form 14457 was released in April 2020. On July 14, 2020, Carolyn A. Schenck, the National Fraud Counsel for the IRS Fraud Enforcement Program, stated that the IRS is planning to issue additional instructions for Form 14457 to provide further guidance on the mechanics of the VDP. Conforming additions will be made to the Internal Revenue Manual.

Practice Point: The risk of criminal prosecution for tax offenses is increasing due to significant improvements in IRS enforcement strategies. IRS commissioner Charles Rettig was formerly in private practice defending taxpayers and has implemented significant changes in IRS programs and leadership. There is an unprecedented degree of coordination among the enforcement divisions and emphasis on preventing tax fraud, with Eric Hylton, previous deputy [...]

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