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IRS Issues New Procedures for Large Corporate Audit Disclosures

For decades, large corporate taxpayers under continuous audit have been able to make disclosures under Revenue Procedure 94-69 at the beginning of an examination to notify the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of adjustments (both positive and negative) to their tax returns and thereby obtain protection from various penalties and obviate the need to file a formal amended tax return. In 2020, the IRS questioned the continuing utility of this disclosure process and invited comments on said process. With the new Revenue Procedure 2022-39, the IRS has moved the largest corporate taxpayers into a new era of voluntary disclosure. This is a significant development for impacted taxpayers.

Read more here.




Update on IRS Enforcement Efforts

We frequently post about the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) tax enforcement trends and announcements. Prior examples from this year include the release of a five-year strategic plan emphasizing enforcement, the plan to hire up to 200 additional attorneys to assist with litigation efforts, the implementation of the Large Partnership Compliance (LPC) Pilot Program, a focus on tax compliance of non-US citizens and residents, and the creation of a new Joint Strategic Emerging Issues Team to identify emerging “abusive transactions.” Over the past several weeks, the IRS has provided additional updates on its enforcement efforts and future plans, including the following:

  • The IRS is considering raising the economic substance doctrine more frequently in transfer pricing examinations—even those where taxpayers have transfer pricing documentation—and asserting penalties more often in transfer pricing cases. This follows the announcement last April that executive approval is no longer needed before asserting the codified economic substance doctrine under Internal Revenue Code Section 7701(o).
  • The IRS plans to grow the LPC program and envisions it functioning similar to corporate examinations conducted by the Large Business & International Division.
  • The IRS’s Criminal Investigation (CI) Division is highly focused on criminal digital asset cases and intends to make many of these cases public. This follows the recent release of the CI Division’s annual report.
  • The IRS intends to expend more resources on examinations of high-income/high-net-worth taxpayers.
  • The IRS has proposed to require the disclosure of more information regarding corporate taxpayers’ uncertain tax positions, including citations to contrary authorities, which, if finalized, will likely lead to more examinations and challenges to tax reporting positions.

Practice Point: Tax enforcement has been down over the past several years, including a slowdown in audit operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. With increased funding from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and proposed restrictions on access to IRS Appeals for certain matters, we expect more examinations and tax disputes in the near future. Taxpayers and their advisors should prepare. Consider working with your tax controversy advisor to discuss your more vulnerable return positions to see how to better defend against the impending tax enforcement wave!




Weekly IRS Roundup October 31 – November 4, 2022

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of October 31, 2022 – November 4, 2022.

October 31, 2022: The IRS released Internal Revenue Bulletin 2022-44, which highlights the following:

  • Treasury Decision 9966: These final regulations increase the renewal user fee for enrolled retirement plan agents from $67 to $140 and also increase both the enrollment and renewal of enrollment user fees for enrolled agents from $67 to $140.
  • Proposed Regulations 113068-22: These proposed regulations relate to recordkeeping and reporting requirements for the average income test for purposes of the low-income housing credit.
  • Revenue Ruling 2022-19: This revenue ruling provides a rule for valuing noncommercial flights on employer-provided aircraft, including the three Standard Industry Fare Level (SIFL) rates: the Unadjusted SIFL Rate, the SIFL Rate Adjusted for PSP Grants, and the SIFL Rate Adjusted for PSP Grants and Promissory Notes.
  • Treasury Decision 9967: This document contains final and temporary regulations, which set forth guidance on the average income test for purposes of the low-income housing credit.

October 31, 2022: The IRS released COVID Tax Tip 2022-166, announcing that more than nine million people may qualify for tax benefits they did not claim by filing a 2021 federal income tax return. Many of these people may be eligible to claim some or all of the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, among others, which were expanded last year under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and other legislation.

November 1, 2022: The IRS released COVID Tax Tip 2022-167, alerting taxpayers in areas covered by certain Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster declarations that they may have more time to file their returns and may qualify for penalty relief under Notice 2022-36.

November 2, 2022: The IRS released COVID Tax Tip 2022-168, reminding people to review their tax withholdings to avoid tax surprises, such as a balance due or a larger-than-expected refund.

November 3, 2022: The IRS requested comments on three notices related to different aspects of extensions and enhancements of energy tax benefits in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The IRS hopes that comments will aid the agency in drafting the related guidance items. Feedback should be submitted by December 3, 2022. The notices include:

  • Notice 2022-56, which requests comments related to the qualified commercial clean vehicles provisions and the alternative fuel vehicle refueling property
  • Notice 2022-57, which requests comments related to the carbon capture tax credit
  • Notice 2022-58, which requests comments related to the tax credit for the production of clean hydrogen and the clean fuel production tax credit.

November 3, 2022: The IRS
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The IRS Can Share Your Tax Information with Foreign Governments

The recent Zhang v. United States case, Docket No. 21-17093 (9th Cir. Oct. 18, 2022), serves as a reminder that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can force you to disclose and share your tax information with foreign governments. The taxpayers in Zhang appealed the decision from the US District Court for the Northern District of California denying their petition to quash an IRS summons for information. The summons was at the request of the Canadian tax authority pursuant to a bilateral tax treaty between the United States and Canada. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed that the IRS can seek information for, and on behalf of, a foreign government as long as the request satisfies the accepted guidelines of requesting information in the United States—for example, the “good faith” requirement announced in United States v. Powell, 379 U.S. 48, 57-58 (1964).

So why do we highlight Zhang for you? In this ever-increasing world of tax information transparency, taxpayers need to be mindful of the ability of tax authorities to share information with each other and adjust their taxes accordingly. During a tax audit, it’s a strategic decision as to what tax information to share and what not to share with each tax authority. Telling different stories to different tax authorities could lead to more intrusive audits/scrutiny and higher overall tax bills and could even lead to criminal prosecution. Below are some basic principles to keep in mind:

  • There are three primary methods as to how countries share tax information with each other:
    • Automatic Exchanges
    • Spontaneous Exchanges
    • Targeted Requests
  • Automatic exchanges are becoming increasingly used by countries (g., BEPS Action 5 and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) because they are automatic and routine and usually associated with standardized financial/bank transactions.
  • A spontaneous exchange occurs when one country sees something of interest and alerts another country about a potential tax issue or as part of a joint audit by the countries.
    • These exchanges are usually facilitated by provisions in bilateral tax treaties.
    • The IRS’s Internal Revenue Manual (g., IRM 4.60.1.3) has detailed instructions for IRS employees on how to handle these treaty exchanges.
  • Targeted requests (like in Zhang) are typically initiated by one country that is a party to an information exchange treaty to seek information needed by that country in its tax investigation of its resident or citizen.
    • In such a case where a foreign government makes a request of the US government through a treaty, the IRS Office of the Competent Authority on the US side handles the request. (See, e.g., IRM 4.60.1.2.2.4.)
    • If the US taxpayer does not comply with the IRS request for information made by the foreign government (usually in the form of an “Information Document Request”), the IRS can use its administrative summons power to enforce the summons in court (which is what happened in Zhang).

Practice Point: It is crucial to be strategic [...]

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New IRS Funding Will Be Used to Focus on Tax Compliance of Non-US Citizens and Residents

US Congress will be giving the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $79.6 billion over the next 10 years in an effort to put the agency back on the path to effective and efficient tax administration. The money will find lots of uses, including for the hiring of new personnel and updating the IRS’s antiquated technology.

At a recent American Bar Association Tax Section conference, Audrey Morris from the IRS Office of Chief Counsel (Small Business/Self-Employed Division) publicly stated that tax compliance among foreign nationals living and working in the United States also will be a priority and focus of the IRS’s new funding.

We have reported extensively about the re-funding of the IRS. (See here and here for example.) There are special considerations for non-US citizens who are not in compliance with US tax laws. For example, failing to properly report taxable income could be a bar or impediment to obtaining immigration status in the United States.

Practice Point: If you are a foreign national living in the United States and you may not be in compliance with US tax rules, it is time to consider doing so. The IRS has programs to help, including a voluntary disclosure program by which taxpayers who knowingly have reported their income erroneously or have failed to report income at all can disclose their transgressions and clean up their non-compliance. (See, e.g., here.)

Care should be taken, however, when dealing with the convergence of tax and immigration issues. If you are dealing with these sorts of issues, we strongly suggest speaking frankly with your tax and immigration advisors before doing anything.




Courts Split on Supervisory Approval Requirement for Tax Penalties

Since Chai v. Commissioner, an opinion by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit subsequently followed by the US Tax Court in several opinions, there has been a substantial number of cases litigating issues involving supervisory approval of federal civil tax penalties. Two recent additions to that list include decisions from the Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, where both Courts departed from the Tax Court’s analysis and ruling on the issue. The disagreement centers on when approval must occur. (Some of our prior discussions on this topic are linked below.)

LAIDLAW’S AND THE NINTH CIRCUIT

In Laidlaw’s Harley-Davidson Sales, Inc. v. Commissioner, the Ninth Circuit, reversing the Tax Court’s ruling, applied a textualist approach and held that approval is required only before the assessment of a tax penalty and not before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) communicates a proposed penalty to the taxpayer. The Court reasoned that the “language of [Internal Revenue Code (Code) section 6571(b)] provides no reason to conclude that an ‘initial determination’ is transformed into ‘something more like a final determination’ simply because the revenue agent who made the initial determination subsequently mailed a letter to the taxpayer describing it.” While the Court was “troubled” by the manner in which the IRS communicated the potential imposition of the penalty, it explained that a court’s role is to “apply the law as it is written, not to devise alternative language.” In reaching its decision, the Ninth Circuit disagreed with the position developed by the Tax Court in recent years.

KRONER AND THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT

In Kroner v. Commissioner, the Eleventh Circuit followed Laidlaw’s Harley Davidson Sales and similarly concluded that the IRS satisfies Code Section 6751(b) so long as a supervisor approves the penalty before it is assessed. The Court explained that this was the best reading of the statute because (1) it is more consistent with the meaning of the phrase “initial determination of such assessment,” (2) it reflects the absence of any express timing requirement in the statute, and (3) it is a workable reading in the light of the statute’s purpose. The Court suggested that the IRS may be wise “to have a supervisor approve proposed tax penalties at an early juncture…but the text of the statute does not impose an earlier deadline.”

The Eleventh Circuit was explicit in its departure from Chai and Tax Court precedent, stating that “the Chai court missed an important aspect of the statute’s purpose: it is not just about bargaining, it is also a check on the imposition of erroneous penalties.” The Court also explained that “appropriate penalties should be assessed and collected. Chai’s analysis of these competing interests leaned heavily on the former to the detriment of the latter when justifying its departure from the statutory text.”

Practice Point: It remains to be seen whether this issue will make its way to the Supreme Court of the United States given the apparent circuit split on the issue as [...]

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IRS Hints at Revenue Procedure 94-69 Update

At a recent Tax Executives Institute conference in New York, an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) spokesperson stated that guidance and a new final form will be issued when the IRS and the US Department of the Treasury replace the disclosure procedures laid out in Revenue Procedure 94-69 1994-2 C.B. 804. The updated guidance will define the scope of the required disclosures and detail how to create them.

As we previously discussed, the IRS published a new draft form (Form 15307, Post-Filing Disclosure for Specified Large Business Taxpayers) in February 2022 and requested comments on the new form. A significant amount of useful comments was received from taxpayers and tax professionals on Form 15307 and the IRS is in the process of finalizing the form based upon said comments, which will be released to aid in the implementation of the new guidance replacing Revenue Procedure 94-69. No timing was provided on when the new form and guidance will be issued.

Practice Point: We are happy to hear that the disclosure procedures in Revenue Procedure 94-69 is here to stay, albeit in some form or fashion. Numerous large business taxpayers rely on this mechanism to clean up errors made on the return without having to file a formal amended return.




IRS Official Provides Update on Large Partnership Compliance Audits

Almost 11 months ago, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a memorandum regarding the implementation of the Large Partnership Compliance (LPC) Pilot Program, including the identification, selecting and delivery of large partnership tax returns, exam procedures and feedback. The goal of the LPC program is to identify the largest partnership cases and develop improved methods for identifying and assessing the compliance risks presented by these taxpayers. Large partnerships include those with more than $10 million in assets, and such partnerships are subject to data analytics and classification processes. Audits of these large partnerships are conducted by the Large Business & International (LB&I) division.

The LPC program was discussed at the recent Tax Executives Institute conference in New York. IRS officials noted that 50 large partnerships have been selected for the first round of audits, focusing on the 2019 tax year. The IRS currently is undecided as to whether LB&I plans to audit subsequent year returns for the selected partnerships, but likely will not subject such partnerships to a continuous audit process that is used for many large corporate taxpayers.

An interesting discussion took place at the conference related to whether IRS revenue agents will share with the selected partnerships the risk level assigned to their partnership return and which issues will be examined. (Risk assessment and identification of issues are generally included in audit plans for corporate taxpayers, although the level of risk may not necessarily be disclosed.) Currently, some agents are providing such information to selected partnerships but there is no consensus or standard practice at the audit level.

Practice Point: The IRS has made it well known that large partnerships are on their radar and there is a need to focus on these audits to ensure taxpayer compliance. In our experience, revenue agents tend to be more transparent in audits of large taxpayers when it comes to the issues under examination, but it would be a welcome development if the IRS announced at the outset of the audit more standard procedures for informing taxpayers of the risk levels assigned. As the LPC program continues, we are hopeful that the IRS will decide to share more data with the public. We expect an increase in audit activity as a result of additional funding received by the IRS, and it appears that the IRS will focus those efforts on large partnerships.




Special IRS Team Working to Identify Emerging “Abusive Transactions”

Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced the creation of a new Joint Strategic Emerging Issues Team (JSEIT). The new initiative, announced at the New York University School of Professional Studies Tax Controversy Forum in June, brings together different agency divisions and organizations to identify and address emerging tax compliance issues. Various divisions, such as the Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE), Large Business & International (LB&I), Tax Exempt/Government Entities (TE/GE) and Criminal Investigation divisions, will work together to bring each division’s expertise and specialties into one place to quickly address new issues that are brought to the IRS’s attention.

The goal of JSEIT is to help taxpayers with compliance issues and message them about which transactions work or do not work from a compliance perspective. The purpose of JSEIT is to act as a communication vehicle to identify areas that should be looked at in more detail by the various IRS divisions. In this vein, JSEIT seeks to provide messaging to taxpayers on emerging issues so that they are informed early on as to how the IRS views a particular transaction. JSEIT is not focused on transactions the IRS has already deemed abusive (e.g., certain syndicated conservations easements and micro-captive insurance transactions) but seeks to identify developing issues and alert the public to those issues.

JSEIT has not yet identified any specific emerging issues or transactions that it is investigating. Rather, it receives input from various sources, such as the public and IRS personnel, as to emerging issues to keep an eye on. One example of input from the public is a June 28, 2022, letter from a retired certified public accountant discussing “multinational profit-shifting structures” and Internal Revenue Code Section 482 and the application of effectively connecting income taxation.

JSEIT also looks to social media and ideas that are posted on the internet. This is consistent with the actions of LB&I examination teams, which frequently look to US Securities and Exchange Commission filings and LinkedIn profits and posts to gain background information on corporate taxpayers and their operations.

The IRS Office of Chief Counsel is also involved in JSEIT. Chief Counsel attorneys sometimes hear about a new transaction from a tax practitioner or an examination team and can bring that to JSEIT so that it is aware of the new transaction. This allows Chief Counsel attorneys to be involved early on and to provide guidance to examination teams as to what transactions it believes are compliant and which are not. For example, Chief Counsel attorneys can tell revenue agents what to look for in an emerging issue and what information to request from the taxpayer to gain a better understanding of the transaction.

As we recently discussed, the IRS is set to receive significant funding that will be deployed to improve taxpayer service and enhance tax compliance. JSEIT may benefit from this increased funding and be able to identify more issues on which to focus and the most effective [...]

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IRS Appeals Retains Video Conference Option, Requests Public Input

In 2017, we posted about the IRS Independent Office of Appeals’ (IRS Appeals) implementation of a face-to-face virtual option for taxpayers. Now, IRS Appeals wants suggestions from tax professionals on how to improve and enhance the video conferencing platform.

IRS Appeals offers taxpayers conferences by telephone, video or in person. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered expanded interim guidance that required employees to conduct video conferences when requested by taxpayers. IRS Appeals plans to make updates to the Internal Revenue Manual, including guidelines for conducting video conferences and for using the video conference platform technology, Microsoft Teams.

In April 2022, IRS Appeals acknowledged its large backlog of cases and detailed a multipoint plan to reduce “significant inventory.” As we discussed previously in our post, the plan offered welcome developments, including additional resources, prioritization of docketed casework, faster initial contact with the taxpayer, streamlined case processing, resolution of cases without conferences that were triggered from pandemic miscommunication and reliance on oral statements to resolve cases rather than trials. Improvements to the video conferencing platform can only help to alleviate that backlog further.

Some of the common ideas expressed by taxpayers and tax professionals to date include:

  • The potential for improving the taxpayer experience as taxpayers may be better able to present their cases over video rather than on a phone conference.
  • The critical nature of the IRS Appeals employee’s role in making sure every participant is introduced and participants turn on their cameras.
  • How screensharing allows for a more comprehensive discussion of issues and potentially earlier resolution.
  • Keeping technical requirements to a minimum for taxpayers who find the video conference platform challenging while also ensuring other options (such as teleconferences and in-person conferences) remain available.

Generally, it is up to taxpayers or their representatives to decide how they will meet with IRS Appeals. According to a recent release, the type of conference chosen will not impact IRS Appeals’ substantive decision in a matter. Comments should be sent to AP.taxpayer.experience@irs.gov by November 16, 2022.

Practice Point: IRS Appeals remains one of the most effective ways for taxpayers to resolve disputes with the IRS. With video conferencing here to stay, tax practitioners with ideas for improvements should consider submitting them, as they may not be considered otherwise.

For our prior comments and posts on IRS Appeals, see the links below:




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