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It’s Official: President Biden Signs the Inflation Reduction Act into Law, IRS to Receive Increased Funding

On August 16, 2022, US President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (Act). A press release from the White House touts the Act as one that will “lower the costs for families, combat the climate crisis, reduce the deficit, and finally ask for the largest corporations to pay their fair share.” The press release provides a numerical summary of the Act’s impact on the healthcare, clean energy and tax sectors.

As we previously discussed, the Act provides for a significant increase in funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig shared the following written statement regarding the Act:

The signing of the historic reconciliation package marks a transformational moment for our agency—and an opportunity for the future of tax administration. The IRS has struggled for many years with insufficient resources to fulfill our important mission. During the next 10 years, these funds will help us in many areas, including adding critical resources to not just close the tax gap but meaningfully improve taxpayer service and technology. This will allow the IRS to provide services to taxpayers in the manner they expect and deserve. The act also includes a wide range of tax law changes that we will have to implement very quickly.

 

Given the scope of the bill, keep in mind these changes will not be immediate. It’s a 10-year plan, and it will take time to put these provisions into place. More details will be available in coming months.

 

We have a lot of hard work in front of us to deliver on the high expectations this historic funding will provide. But I have great confidence IRS employees are up to the task—and will deliver for Americans as they have countless times before in the history of our agency.

The Act also contains several new provisions relating to the corporate alternative minimum, a tax on stock buybacks, and tax credits for clean energy use and production. These provisions will require immediate guidance given that they are effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2022.

Practice Point: The IRS has its work cut out for it. It is critical that timely guidance be provided to taxpayers impacted by the Act’s new provisions to allow for proper planning and modeling. Additionally, the IRS needs to create and execute a plan to improve its technology and customer service.

Update as of August 18, 2022: US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen has issued a memorandum to Commissioner Rettig, directing the IRS to produce, within six months, an operational plan detailing how the additional funding would be deployed over the next decade. Secretary Yellen specifically stated that she would like the IRS to work closely with Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo “to identify specific operational initiatives and associated timelines that will improve taxpayer service, modernize technology, and increase equity in our system of tax administration [...]

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Is the IRS Finally Receiving Increased Funding?

After months of back and forth, it appears that additional funding is on its way to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released a statement yesterday on his agreement with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the FY2022 Budget Reconciliation legislation and plans to hold a vote in the US Senate next week. A summary of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (Act) provides the following topline estimates:

Total Revenue Raised $739 billion 15% Corporate Minimum Tax $313 billion* Prescription Drug Pricing Reform $288 billion** IRS Tax Enforcement $124 billion** Carried Interest Loophole $14 billion* Total Investments $433 billion Energy Security and Climate Change $369 billion** Affordable Care Act Extension $64 billion** Total Deficit Reduction $300+ billion * = Joint Committee on Taxation Estimate ** = Congressional Budget Office Estimate

 

With respect to taxes, the summary states that the Act will “[m]ake the biggest corporations and ultra-wealthy pay their fair share” and “[t]here are no new taxes on families making $400,000 or less and no new taxes on small business – we are closing tax loopholes and enforcing the tax code.”

Section 10301 of the Act, entitled “Enhancement of Internal Revenue Service Resources,” provides the following appropriations:

  • IRS: $78,911,000,000
    • Taxpayer Services: $3,181,500,000
      • Provide taxpayer services, including pre-filing assistance and education; filing and account services; taxpayer advocacy services; and other services authorized by 5 U.S.C. 3109 (relating to employment of excerpts and consultants on a temporary or intermittent basis)
    • Enforcement: $45,637,400,000
      • Conduct tax enforcement activities to determine and collect owed taxes; provide legal and litigation support; conduct criminal investigations; provide digital asset monitoring and compliance activities; enforce criminal statutes related to violations of internal revenue laws and other financial crimes; purchase and hire passenger motor vehicles; and provide other services authorized by 3109
    • Operations Support: $25,326,400,000
      • Support taxpayer services and enforcement programs, including rent payments; facilities services; printing; postage; physical security; headquarters and other IRS-wide administrative activities; research and statistics of income; telecommunications; information technology development, enhancement, operations, maintenance and security; hire of passenger motor vehicles, operations of the IRS Oversight Board; and other services authorized by 3109
    • Business Systems Modernization: $4,750,700,000
      • Improve the business systems modernization program, including development of callback technology and other technology to provide a more personalized customer service experience but do not include the operation and maintenance of legacy systems.
    • Report on IRS-Run Free “Direct Efile” Tax Return System: $15,000,000
      • Deliver to US Congress (within nine months) a report on the cost of developing and running a free direct efile tax return system; taxpayer opinions, expectations and level of trust—based on surveys—for such a system; and opinions of an independent third party on the overall feasibility, approach, schedule, cost, organizational design and the IRS’s capacity to deliver such a system
    • Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA): $403,000,000



IRS Releases Five-Year Strategic Plan with Emphasis on Enforcement

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its five-year strategic plan (Strategic Plan) for 2022 – 2026, laying out four major goals:

  1. Service: Provide quality and accessible services to enhance the taxpayer experience
  2. Enforcement: Enforce the tax law fairly and efficiently to increase voluntary compliance and narrow the tax gap
  3. People: Foster an inclusive, diverse and well-equipped workforce and strengthen relationships with external partners
  4. Transformation: Transform IRS operations to become more resilient, agile and responsive to improve the taxpayer experience and narrow the tax gap.

In the portion of his opening message that addressed enforcement, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig focused on listed transactions, saying, “We also continued to make important progress in our compliance programs, with a particular focus on abusive tax shelters, including syndicated conservation easements and microcaptive insurance arrangements.”

The Strategic Plan vows an increased focus on noncompliant, high-income and high-wealth taxpayers, partnerships and large corporations, which the report asserts “make up a disproportionate share of the unpaid taxes.” The IRS intends to improve efforts to collect unpaid taxes with effective deterrence and enhanced enforcement capabilities. Employees will also have access to Enterprise Case Management, which will provide agents with the full history of a taxpayer, along with other tools to prevent and address noncompliance. The IRS also wants to reduce the burden on taxpayers by decreasing the time between filing returns and compliance issue resolution. Finally, the IRS plans to improve public confidence by promoting compliance through publicizing criminal prosecutions and civil enforcement efforts.

Additionally, the IRS points to increasing efforts to proactively identify fraud schemes. Its Office of Fraud Enforcement is creating a new Virtual Currency Learning Academy for all IRS personnel—from beginners to experts—with training focused on cryptocurrencies, blockchain tracing, anti-money laundering compliance and Altcoins.

While responsibilities and workloads at the IRS have been increasing, resources to combat criminal fraud and tax evasion have been decreasing. The IRS says it must continue updating necessary tax guidance for new investments, invest in analytical approaches to improve case selection and maintain institutional knowledge of how to combat avoidance activities.

The Strategic Plan indicates that the IRS continues to navigate challenges related to insufficient funding, decreasing workforce and hiring difficulties. In response, the IRS intends to expand electronic services with online accounts and digital filing capabilities. The IRS also plans to expand resources for international taxpayers, as well as implement a Multilingual Strategy with new publications in multiple languages. Other goals include increasing outreach with enhanced social media strategies and prioritizing security while safeguarding taxpayer data.

The Strategic Plan also discusses the IRS’s aging workforce and above-average attrition rates. In response, the IRS intends to hire additional employees, enhance retention and implement a Comprehensive Training Strategy.

Finally, the IRS plans to make improvements to infrastructure, which includes reorganizing operations, upgrading and modernizing systems, accelerating cybersecurity modernization efforts from cyber threats and reducing the paper volume by using digital data more effectively.

Commissioner Rettig stated, “[w]orking toward these strategic goals with consistent multi-year funding will [...]

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IRS Changes Position on Approval for Assertion of Codified Economic Substance Doctrine

In March 2010, Congress codified the economic substance doctrine in Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 7701(o). The codification clarified that a conjunctive analysis applies in determining if the doctrine applies. The codified economic substance doctrine applies when a transaction does not have economic substance or lacks a business purpose. When the doctrine applies, a taxpayer is subject to a 20% strict liability penalty (40% in the case of undisclosed transactions) on any underpayment attributable to the disallowed tax benefit claimed.

Congress acknowledged that the codified economic substance doctrine should be applied sparingly, and the Joint Committee on Taxation, in a report issued prior to the enactment of the doctrine, provided detailed guidance on when the doctrine should apply. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidance shortly after the codification acknowledging these points. The IRS also put in place detailed procedures for examiners to follow in determining whether to assert the codified economic substance doctrine.

One of the procedures put in place was the approval by the Director, Field Operation before the codified economic substance doctrine could be formally asserted. An approval request was to be made after consultation with the revenue agent’s manager and local counsel. Additionally, taxpayers were to be provided “the opportunity to explain their position.”

On April 22, 2022, the IRS’s Large Business & International (LB&I) Division issued a memorandum—LB&I-04-0422-0014—to all LB&I and Small Business/Self Employed examination employees (Updated Guidance). The Updated Guidance removes the requirement to obtain executive approval before asserting the codified economic substance doctrine. The Updated Guidance states that this change aligns penalties for lack of economic substance with other assessable penalties which do not require executive approval. However, the changes do not remove the supervisory approval requirement under Code Section 6751.

In connection with the Updated Guidance, revisions are being made to the relevant provisions of the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM). The IRM revisions eliminate some of the considerations previously set forth in the four-step process that revenue agents were required to undertake in determining whether the doctrine should be applied.

Practice Points: Although the Updated Guidance has no impact on the substance of the codified economic substance doctrine itself, the change is disappointing news. As a result of the relaxed rules for the doctrine’s assertion, taxpayers can reasonably assume that the doctrine may more frequently be asserted on audit. Thus, it is now even more important to properly document transactions to demonstrate they have sufficient economic substance and a business purpose.




An Update on Section 6751 Penalties

Tax penalties are always a hot topic here. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a large arsenal when it comes to grounds for asserting penalties on income tax deficiencies, ranging from the common 20% penalty under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 6662(a) to higher penalties ranging from 40% (gross valuation or basis misstatements and economic substance) to 75% (fraud).

However, before the IRS can assert most penalties against taxpayers, it must comply with the procedural requirement in Code Section 6751(b): That the “initial determination” to assert the penalty be “personally approved (in writing) by the immediate supervisor of the individual making such determination.” As the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit explained in Chai v. Commissioner, US Congress imposed this requirement because it “believes that penalties should only be imposed where appropriate and not as a bargaining chip” and “[t]he statute was meant to prevent IRS agents from threatening unjustified penalties to encourage taxpayers to settle.”

Over the past several years, there has been substantial litigation over the proper interpretation and application of Code Section 6751(b). The US Tax Court’s recent opinion in Oxbow Bend, LLC v. Commissioner is the latest development. In Oxbow Bend, the Tax Court rejected the taxpayer’s position that the “initial determination” was made on the date that the examining agent prepared a penalty lead sheet reflecting her recommendation to assert penalties and stated in a telephone conference with the taxpayer’s representative on that same day that penalties were being considered. Approximately three months later, the examining agent’s supervisor approved the penalty lead sheet, and the IRS issued a Notice of Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment asserting the penalties. The Tax Court, relying on its prior precedent, held that the word “determination”:

  1. “has an established meaning in the tax context and denotes a communication with a high degree of concreteness and formality”
  2. “signifies a consequential moment of IRS action”
  3. is not a “mere suggestion, proposal, or initial informal mention of penalties”
  4. “will be embodied in a formal written communication that notifies the taxpayer of the decision to assert penalties.”

Thus, under the Tax Court’s analysis, an “initial determination” can only be made in a “written” document that is provided to the taxpayer.

Oxbow Bend is a memorandum opinion of the Tax Court and, therefore, is limited to its facts and technically not precedential, as we have discussed in the past. However, memorandum opinions are often cited by litigants, and the Tax Court does not disregard these types of opinions lightly. One has to wonder whether, under different facts where an examining agent makes an explicit oral statement to a taxpayer that penalties “will” be asserted, courts might reach a different result given Congress’s express intent that examining agents should not threaten penalties and use them as a bargaining chip for settlement purposes. Further, Code Section 6751(b) expressly requires that the supervisory approval be “in writing” but contains a written requirement for purposes of the [...]

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District Court Vacates, Sets Aside IRS Reportable Transaction Notice

The fallout from taxpayer challenges to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) “reportable transaction” regime continues. On March 21, 2022, the district court in CIC Servs., LLC v. IRS ruled in favor of the taxpayer, vacating Notice 2016-66 and ordering the IRS to return all documents and information produced pursuant to Notice 2016-66 to taxpayers and material advisors.

We previously posted about the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in CIC Servs., LLC v. IRS, which allowed a pre-enforcement challenge to the IRS’s reportable transaction regime. On remand, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court, relying on Mann Construction, Inc. v. United States, explained that the “Sixth Circuit’s analysis in Mann Construction is binding on this Court and applies equally to the arguments advanced by the IRS regarding Notice 2016-66 in this case.” The court dealt the IRS another blow, holding that Notice 2016-66 had to also be set aside as an agency action that was arbitrary and capricious: “[s]imply including cases in the administrative record that suggest certain tax structures could be abusively employed is not synonymous with examining relevant facts and data in connection with issuing the Notice.” In determining the appropriate relief, the court rejected the IRS’s request to limit vacatur of the Notice to CIC, explaining that “vacating the Notice in its entirety is appropriate” and citing the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s prior statement that the IRS “do[es] not have a great history of complying with APA procedures, having claimed for several decades that their rules and regulations are exempt from those requirements” (See CIC Servs., LLC v. IRS, 925 F.3d 247, 258 (6th Cir. 2019) quoting Kristin E. Hickman & Gerald Kersa, Restoring the Lost Anti-Injunction Act, 103 Va. L. Rev. 1683, 1712-13 (2017)).

Practice Point: The assault on the IRS’s reportable transaction regime is far from over. We recently posted about the Sixth Circuit’s opinion in Mann Construction in which it held that Notice 2007-83, which required disclosure of listed transactions relating to certain employee benefit plans, violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). APA challenges continue to expand to other IRS notices that bypassed the notice-and-comment requirement, including Notice 2017-10, which identifies certain syndicated conservation easement transactions as listed transactions subject to disclosure to the IRS. These developments will certainly have a significant impact on taxpayers and material advisors’ responsibilities as we move into the tax filing season.




IRS Proposes New Process for Post-Filing Disclosures to Replace Revenue Procedure 94-69

For many years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has provided large corporate taxpayers who are under continuous audit to make affirmative disclosures at the start of an audit so they have an opportunity to disclose tax positions and avoid certain civil tax penalties. The procedure, outlined in Revenue Procedure 94-69, has been very popular with both taxpayers and IRS agents because it provides a mechanism that allows taxpayers to informally “amend” a return without filling out all of the paperwork. IRS agents also like the procedure because it allows them to focus the examination on the disclosed issues and incorporate the adjustments in the final computation from the audit. Indeed, the procedure has grown in practice to include the disclosure of affirmative and negative adjustments at the start of the examination and not just in the audits of taxpayers under the jurisdiction of the IRS’s Large Business & International division. However, as the continuous audit paradigm has ended, in 2020 the IRS questioned the continuing viability of this procedure and sought comments from taxpayers on if, and how, it should continue.

Numerous commentators (including the American Bar Association Section of Taxation and Tax Executives Institute, Inc.) recommended that the IRS keep this post-filing disclosure procedure in place, citing the following points in support:

  • The procedure avoids the need to file a formal amended return, a burdensome process on large taxpayers.
  • Requiring formal amended returns can be a significant strain on taxpayer resources, including the potential need to deal with state and local tax filings.
  • All mistakes can be fixed at one time (i.e., avoiding multiple amended returns).
  • The procedure eases reporting issues with Schedules K-1 that are issued after the original tax return is filed.
  • The procedure allows incorporating carryover adjustments from prior examinations.
  • There’s potential to avoid strict liability for penalties relating to transfer pricing adjustments.

On February 25, 2022, the IRS announced that it will standardize the process for making post-filing disclosures so that eligible taxpayers and IRS agents have consistent guidelines for determining what constitutes an adequate disclosure. To that end, the IRS has published a new draft form, Form 15307, Post-Filing Disclosure for Specified Large Business Taxpayers, to be used by eligible taxpayers seeking to make a post-filing disclosure. Taxpayer comments on the new draft form can be submitted here.

The draft Form 15307, which must be signed under penalties or perjury, requires that the taxpayer identify the number of disclosures and provide specific information about each disclosure, including:

  • Adjustment type
  • Timing
  • Effect of carryover
  • Description
  • Increase/decrease to taxable income or tax credits
  • Explanation of the item being disclosed

Examples of acceptable and unacceptable descriptions and disclosures are provided in the instructions to the draft form. Generally, netting of adjustments is not permitted, however, where the facts and circumstances of an item are identical and represent a high volume of low dollar amounts, the disclosures can be netted. The [...]

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Revoking Your Power of Attorney Status

To represent a taxpayer before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you need a valid power of attorney (POA). This is accomplished by preparing and submitting a properly completed Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative pursuant to the Instructions for Form 2848. At some point, the representation will end (or it ends for certain matters and years but not for others). However, absent affirmative steps by the representative prevents the IRS from knowing that you no longer represent the taxpayer, and you may continue to receive IRS correspondence. This creates a potential issue because representatives should not be receiving taxpayer information if they no longer represent or provide legal advice to said taxpayer.

To avoid this, a representative can notify the IRS that they no longer represent the taxpayer and do not wish to receive any further correspondence, either for all matters and years or just certain ones. This is done by revoking your POA with the IRS. Revocation can be done in one of two ways. The first way is to mail or fax a copy of the POA to the IRS with the word “REVOKE” written across the top of the first page with a current signature and the date below this annotation. Alternatively, if the representative does not have a copy of Form 2848 or wishes to revoke several POAs at the same time, they can send the IRS a statement of revocation that indicates that the authority granted by the POA is revoked, lists the matters and years and lists the name and address of each recognized representative whose authority is revoked. If the representative is completing revoking authority, they can write “revoke all years/periods” instead of listing the specific matters and years.

For representatives who represent multiple taxpayers before the IRS, it may be difficult to recall all of the POAs they have filed with the IRS. However, a listing of all your POAs can be obtained by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the Centralized Authorization File (CAF)/Representative/Client listing. It’s a simple process, and the IRS provides the following Sample CAF Client Listing Request on its website:

Sample CAF Client Listing Request

 

Practitioner or company name Practitioner or company address Phone number (optional)

 

Date

 

Dear Disclosure Manager:

 

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I request that a copy of the CAF Representative/Client Listing be provided to me. I do not wish to inspect the documents first.

 

In order to determine my status for the applicability of fees, you should know that I am an “Other” requester seeking information for non-commercial or personal use. I am a tax professional and my CAF number is XXXXXXX. (This is not your Enrolled Agent Number)

 

I am including a valid photo identification which includes my signature as proof of identity.

 

Send listing as a paper document. I am willing to pay [...]

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IRS Chief Counsel Signals Increased Tax Enforcement

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Chief Counsel is the chief legal advisor to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue on all matters pertaining to the interpretation, administration and enforcement of the Internal Revenue Laws. In this regard, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel is responsible for litigating cases in the US Tax Court. Such cases can arise from examinations conducted by different divisions within the IRS, such as the Large Business & International (LB&I), Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE), Tax Exempt & Government Entities (TE/GE) and Wage & Investment (W&I) Divisions.

On January 21, 2022, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel announced plans to hire up to 200 additional attorneys to assist with litigation efforts. The announcement specifically notes that new hires are necessary “to help the agency combat syndicated conservation easements, abusive micro-captive insurance arrangements and other tax schemes.” They will also help the IRS manage its increasing caseload as part of its multiyear effort to combat what it believes are abusive schemes and to ensure that the appropriate taxes and penalties are paid. The new hires will be located around the country and focus on audits of complex corporate and partnership issues.

Additionally, there are a significant number of cases before the Tax Court that involve conservation easements and micro-captive insurance arrangements. The IRS’s attack on the donation of conservation easements is well known in the tax world. To date, the IRS has largely been successful in these cases based on non-valuation arguments that easement deeds do not comply with the applicable regulations. However, in the recent Hewitt v. Commissioner case, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit dealt a significant blow when it held that the IRS’s interpretation of Treas. Reg. § 1.170A-14(g)(6)(ii) was arbitrary and capricious and violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the US Department of the Treasury failed to respond to significant comments submitted during the notice-and-comment process. Many conservation easements are within the Eleventh Circuit’s jurisdiction and other appellate courts are expected to weigh in soon, which could result in the IRS and taxpayers proceeding to trial on valuation issues. Valuation issues are inherently fact intensive and will require the IRS to utilize substantial resources to litigate.

Practice Point: Much has been written about the trend of decreased enforcement by the IRS over the past several years, owing in part to decreased or stagnant funding from US Congress. Tax litigation, particularly in fact intensive cases involving valuation issues and transactions the IRS (but not necessarily the courts) deemed abusive, requires the expenditure of substantial resources by the IRS. The IRS has signaled that it is ready to reverse the trend. All IRS tax controversies start with the examination of the taxpayer’s positions on the return. We have seen an increase in IRS audit activity in the last year or so, especially with medium-sized businesses and high-net-worth individuals. The Chief Counsel is assembling his “army” to litigate positions developed during the examination. It’s a good time for taxpayers [...]

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