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National Taxpayer Advocate Reminds Congress of IRS Deficiencies

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. In her testimony, Ms. Olson reviewed the substantial issues facing the IRS. The main issues she commented on include: Since 2010, the IRS has lost approximately 20 percent of its funding and personnel. These reductions have led to systematic cuts to the service level and have prevented the IRS from deploying new technology and improving the efficient and effective administration of the tax law. The...

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IRS Funding Woes Realized? Audit Rate at 15-Year Low!

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...

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Are LB&I’s Campaigns Stuck in the Trenches?

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...

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Taxpayer Bill of Rights | Another Tool for Taxpayers?

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: The right to be informed. The right to quality services. The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax. The right to challenge the position of the Internal Revenue Service and be heard. The right to appeal a decision of the Internal Revenue Service in an independent forum. The right to finality. The right to privacy. The right to confidentiality. The right to retain representation. The right to a fair and just tax system. The Code...

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More Changes to IRS Appeals’ Practices?

We have previously commented on changes at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Appeals Division, including: (1) the allowance of Appeals to invite representatives from the IRS Examination Division (Exam) and IRS Office of Chief Counsel to the Appeals conference, (2) the limitations on in-person conferences, and (3) the use of “virtual” conferences. IRS Extends Permanent Invitation to Exam to Attend Appeals Conferences Appeals Large Case Pilot Program Draws Criticism Virtual IRS Appeals – A New Frontier? More Changes to IRS Appeals, in Response to Taxpayer and Practitioner Concerns IRS Appeals Chief Donna Hansberry discussed these changes at a recent tax law conference held by the Federal Bar Association. According to reports, Ms. Hansberry wants feedback from practitioners on the compliance attendance and virtual conferences. Regarding compliance attendance at Appeals conferences, Ms. Hansberry indicated that the IRS is still evaluating this pilot program, and...

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Let’s Get Ready to Rumble – Coca Cola Concentrates on Trial Preparation

The main attraction in the US Tax Court (Tax Court) is just a few weeks away. On March 5, 2018, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) square-off for a much anticipated six-week trial before Judge Lauber. The parties recently filed their Pretrial Memoranda in the case, although the IRS’s memorandum was filed under seal. TCCC’s Pretrial Memorandum gives us deep insight into the issues and how the trial will be conducted. The primary issue in the $3 billion transfer pricing case is the proper amount of the arm’s length royalties payable by six foreign licensees to TCCC for the licenses of TCCC’s trademarks and certain other intangible property for exploitation in international markets. In its Pretrial Memorandum, TCCC contends that the IRS’s application of an approximately 45 percent royalty rate using a bottler-based Comparable Profit Margin (CPM) that allocates to TCCC more than 100 percent of the aggregate operating (after...

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The IRS Has Never Won a Subpart F Sales or Services Case

The IRS has never won a single litigated case arguing for foreign base company sales income (and has never litigated a foreign base company services income case). Courts have consistently rejected the government's arguments to expansively apply the definition of Subpart F sales income in order to carry out asserted congressional intent. While the courts have acknowledged that the policies informed the rules, they have not permitted the policies to eclipse the plain language of the code, even where the taxpayer engaged in tax planning that took advantage of the rules and arguably frustrated the policies underlying the rules. Continue Reading

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More Changes to IRS Appeals, in Response to Taxpayer and Practitioner Concerns

As we have recently discussed, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Appeals has been making a number of changes to their administrative review process in the last few years. While many of these changes have been driven by lack of resources, others—like the standing invitation of Exam into the Appeals process—have the potential to undermine the independence of Appeals, which has historically been a vital component of the taxpayer’s right of redress with the Service. In this week’s American Bar Association conference in Austin, Texas, IRS Appeals clarified that, for field cases worked by revenue agents, taxpayers may still receive in-person conferences, despite recent pronouncements that phone conferences are the preferred or default method. Conferences in campus cases (or correspondence audit cases) will still be generally handled by telephone, but there will eventually be a move to in-person conferences by request. Campus cases are being treated differently because...

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IRS Extends Permanent Invitation to Exam to Attend Appeals Conferences

On May 1, 2017, the IRS issued FAQs concerning its recent practice of inviting IRS Examination Agents (Exam) into the Appeals discussion. The FAQs make clear that Exam will now be routinely invited to Appeals conferences. The release premises this procedural shift on perceived efficiencies of having Exam stay during the taxpayer’s rebuttal presentation. The FAQs explain, however, that settlement discussions with the taxpayer will be held without Exam present. This is an important clarification, and the FAQs explain that this new process is different from Rapid Appeals. Practice Point: It is clear that diminishing resources have put substantial pressure on the Appeals process. In several recent Appeals sessions, Exam has been invited to stay for our clients’ rebuttal to Exam’s presentation. After the taxpayers’ presentation, Appeal tries to elicit a back-and-forth communication between the taxpayer and Exam, putatively to ensure that all of the relevant facts...

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Virtual IRS Appeals – A New Frontier?

The Internal Revenue Service Office of Appeals (IRS Appeals) recently announced that it will offer a new virtual “face-to-face” option in the form of web-based communication to taxpayers and representatives to resolve tax disputes. IRS Office of Appeals Pilots Virtual Service, IRS (July 24, 2017. This announcement comes on the heels of other changes at IRS Appeals that curtail the ability of taxpayers to have face-to-face hearings with IRS Appeals. The IRS cites the need for the new service because of IRS Appeals’ large (and growing) case load—more than 100,000 cases each year! For some our prior coverage on recent changes at IRS Appeals, see here, here, here and here. Practice Point: In the wake of an ever-shrinking budget, resources and staff, the IRS really has no choice but to try new and arguably more efficient methods to move cases along. The backlog of cases at IRS Appeals is staggering, and our clients are experiencing long wait times until a case is...

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