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.

On March 28, 2018, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published Proposed Regulation § 301.7601-1(b)(3)(i) and (ii) which permits the IRS to hire outside specialists to assist in determining the correctness of a taxpayer’s tax liability. The Proposed Regulation also contains an exception specifically prohibiting the IRS from hiring outside attorneys to review summoned information or question witnesses providing testimony under oath.

The participation of outside attorneys became controversial during the audit of a large technology company when the IRS hired an outside law firm to augment its own resources for the transfer pricing audit of the company. On October 16, 2017, in response to the requirements of Executive Order 13789, requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to review all regulations issued after January 1, 2016, the Treasury Department and the IRS announced that they were considering proposing an amendment to Treas. Reg. § 301.7602-1(b)(3) in order to narrow the scope with respect to non-government attorneys. See our prior coverage here. Continue Reading New Proposed Regulations Limit Use of Non-Government Attorneys

On March 13, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will begin ramping down the current Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) and urged taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets to apply for the program prior to its close on September 28, 2018. We have previously reported on developments in the OVDP.

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In late 2017, we provided a brief overview of statutes of limitation in the international tax context. At that time, we noted a forthcoming article on the subject.  We are pleased to report that our expanded article on the subject has been published in the January-February 2018 edition of the International Tax Journal.  The full article can be viewed here.

If you have traded Bitcoin or other crypto-currencies, you probably know that their taxation may be as uncertain as your potential for reward or loss. Since 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has publicized how it believes these investments should be treated for US federal income tax purposes. If you have failed to report your virtual currency transaction, the result in Coinbase, a recent IRS “John Doe” summons enforcement case, should convince you that it is time to ensure you are compliant with tax laws. The IRS may be coming for your Bitcoins!

IRS Guidance – Bitcoins Are Property

In IRS Notice 2014-21, 2014-16 IRB 938, the IRS explained that so-called “virtual currencies” that can be exchanged for traditional currency are “property” for federal income tax purposes. As such, a taxpayer must report gain or loss on its sale or exchange, measured against the taxpayer’s cost to purchase the virtual currency. In the notice, the IRS also made clear that “virtual currencies” are not currency for Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 988 purposes. Continue Reading The IRS May Be Coming for Your Bitcoins

Tax reform is here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may receive additional funds to implement the new tax law. With lowered tax rates, accelerated expensing and forced repatriation of foreign earnings comes an increased risk of an IRS audit. This brave new tax world has left so many questions that tax advisors’ phones have been ringing off the hooks! But as the end of the 2017 year and first quarter of 2018 dust settles, be mindful of the IRS audit to come. Continue Reading Expect Controversy in the Wake of Tax Reform

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division recently released several directives (LB&I Directives) geared toward transfer pricing. LB&I acknowledges that significant LB&I resources are devoted to transfer pricing issues, and such issues make up a substantial portion of the LB&I inventory. It appears that these directives are aimed at ensuring that LB&I resources are utilized in the most efficient and effective manner on transfer pricing issues. A link to each LB&I Directive and a short summary is provided below.

Interim Instructions on Issuance of Mandatory Transfer Pricing Information Document Request (IDR) in LB&I Examinations

This LB&I Directive advises LB&I examiners that it is no longer necessary to issue the mandatory transfer pricing information document request (IDR) to taxpayers that have filed Form 5471, Information Return of U.S. Person with Respect To Certain Foreign Corporations, or Form 5472, Information Return of a 25% Foreign-Owned U.S. Corporation or a Foreign Corporation Engaged in a U.S. Trade or Business, or engaged in cross-border transactions. An update to Part 4.60.8 of the Internal Revenue Manual will be made in the future to further explain this change. Continue Reading IRS Releases Several Transfer Pricing Directives

Happy New Year to all our readers! To start off the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released two pieces of guidance on international tax issues which are noteworthy. Each is briefly discussed below.

The first piece of guidance is Notice 2018-7, which announces the IRS’s intent to issue regulations for determining amounts included in gross income by a United States shareholder under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 951(a)(1) by reason of Code Section 965. The IRS has requested comments on the Notice and has indicated that it expects to issue additional guidance under Code Section 965.

The second piece of guidance is a Practice Unit on the substantial contribution test for the controlled manufacturing exception under the Code Section 954 regulations. This Practice Unit discusses the substantial contribution test and provides insight into the IRS’s approach in analyzing this issue in examinations of taxpayers. We previously posted about the purpose of Practice Units here, but to briefly recap this type of guidance is intended as job aids and training materials for IRS employees. A complete list of Practice Units can be found here.

The tax bar is abuzz with the talk of tax reform. Clients are in modeling purgatory, trying to calculate its effects and plan for the future. Public accounting firms are suggesting how to accelerate deductions in 2017 to take advantage of the massive tax rate decline in 2018. Now more than ever, there are substantial economic incentives to accelerate deductions in 2017 and defer income until 2018. Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and the end to what bodes to be a historic year for federal tax!

Not to be a Grinch, but consider the following as you prepare for year end. If you attempt to accelerate any deductions, make sure to have a complete, “audit-ready” file if the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) decides to test your position. Consider how you will protect against the assertion of any penalties; typically, your ticket to get of out penalty “prison” is to maintain proper substantiation and to establish a reasonable cause defense. An opinion of counsel is one method to meet your burden of establishing that defense. It is always better to be proactive and anticipate an IRS audit than to be reactive and try to compile the proper documentation after-the-fact.

Today, taxing authorities across the globe, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), are increasing their efforts to gather and share sensitive taxpayer information, often aggressively seeking copies of tax advice, opinions and analysis prepared by counsel and other advisors. In some situations, tax advisors specifically draft their advice to be shared with third parties, but frequently the IRS seeks advice that was always intended to be confidential client communications—for example, drafts and emails containing unfinished analysis and unguarded commentary. Sharing this latter type of advice could be problematic for taxpayers because such advice could be used as a road map for examiners during an audit and may mislead the IRS regarding the strength or weakness of a taxpayer’s reporting positions.

Last month, we spoke to tax executives at Tax Executives Institute forums in Houston and Chicago about the IRS’s increased use of treaty requests to obtain US taxpayers’ documents and information from international tax authorities. Continue Reading Maintaining Confidentiality While Navigating Cross-Border Transactions