A recent case decided by the US Tax Court reminds us that when you litigate a case in Tax Court, what happened during the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) examination and Appeals bears very little relevance (if any) once you get to court. Generally, Tax Court’s proceedings are de novo, and the court looks solely to the IRS’s position in the Notice of Deficiency (Notice). The Revenue Agent’s Report and other statements made by the IRS before the issuance of the Notice are typically ignored.

In Moya v. Commissioner, 152 TC No. 11 (Apr. 17, 2019), the IRS determined deficiencies related to the disallowance of certain business expense deductions. The taxpayer did not assign error to the disallowance, but instead argued that the Notice was invalid because the IRS had violated her right to be informed and her right to be heard under an IRS news release and an IRS publication outlining various rights of taxpayers. Specifically, the taxpayer asserted that she had requested that her examination proceedings be transferred to California after she had moved from Las Vegas to Santa Cruz, and that the IRS had violated the her rights by providing vague and inconsistent responses to, and by ultimately denying, her request.
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When you do not pay your taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has the power to file a “lien” on your property under Internal Revenue Code section 6321. The lien attaches “upon all property and rights to property, whether real or personal, belonging to such person.” Practically, this means that the IRS is giving notice that you owe it money and its debt gets priority to most debts that occur after the lien notice is filed. Historically, the lien law has been interpreted strictly and “foot faults” can invalidate the lien. A recent case, however, provides that if the federal tax lien uses the incorrect name, the lien may still be established and enforceable.

The taxpayer and his wife purchased their home as joint tenants in 1975. The taxpayer became the sole owner of the property after his wife passed away. In July 2007, the taxpayer filed federal income tax returns for tax years 2000 to 2004. Based on those returns, the IRS assessed taxes, penalties and interest, which remained outstanding at the time of his death in July 2009. On August 9, 2010, the government recorded a notice of federal tax lien (the Tax Lien Notice) against the taxpayer with the appropriate recorder of deeds in an amount equal to the previously assessed amounts. The Tax Lien Notice omitted the second “l” in the taxpayer’s first name, and failed to include a legal description or permanent index number for the property. The Tax Lien Notice did identify the correct address.
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Most tax professionals are aware of the common-law “mailbox rule,” which provides that proof of proper mailing creates a rebuttable presumption that the document was physically delivered to the addressee. Internal Revenue Code (Code) section 7502 was enacted to codify the mailbox rule for tax purposes. Thus, for documents received after the applicable deadline, the document will be deemed to have been delivered on the date the document is postmarked. To protect taxpayers against a failure of delivery, Code section 7502 also provides that when a document is sent by registered mail, the registration serves as prima facie evidence that the document was delivered, and the date of registration is treated as the postmark date. In other words, if the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) claims not to have received a document, the presumption arises that such document was delivered so long as the taxpayer produces the registration.

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International (LB&I) Division continues to churn out new audit “campaigns.” For our prior coverage, please click here. The most recent set of campaigns were announced on April 16, 2019, bringing the grand total to 53 campaigns since the program’s initial release on January 13, 2017. The IRS explains that the goal of the campaigns is to “improve return selection, identify issues representing a risk of non-compliance, and make the greatest use of limited resources.”

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On March 5, 2019, the US Department of Treasury (Treasury) issued a policy statement on the tax regulatory process. We previously wrote an article for Law360 on the policy statement, which can be accessed here. In our article, we noted the disclaimer language in the policy statement that “is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or inequity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, it officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.” We further noted that this same limiting language can be found in Executive Orders issued by the President of the United States, and that courts have generally rejected attempts to rely on such orders containing this language, although it might be possible to analogize the positions in the policy statement to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) statements in CC-2003-014, which instructs IRS employees not to take positions contrary to IRS published guidance.

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