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Weekly IRS Roundup May 31 – June 4, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of May 31, 2021 – June 4, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

June 1, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, soliciting applications for the IRS Advisory Council, a forum consisting of representatives of the public to advise the IRS regarding various tax administration issues.

June 2, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, reminding taxpayers living and working abroad of the June 15, 2021, deadline for filing their 2020 US federal income tax returns.

June 4, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-34, providing the applicable reference price and associated credit amount used in determining the marginal well production credit under section 45I of the Code.

June 4, 2021: The IRS issued Announcement 2021-11, announcing that the United States and Switzerland have entered into an arrangement listing the US and Swiss pension and retirement plans, which now include various US and Swiss individual retirement savings plans that may qualify for the exemption from withholding on dividends under the US-Switzerland tax treaty.

June 4, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, announcing the issuance of more than 2.8 million refunds to taxpayers who paid taxes on unemployment compensation in 2020, compensation that was retroactively excluded from 2020 taxable income by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

June 4, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Le Chen in our Washington, DC, office for this week’s roundup.




Weekly IRS Roundup May 24 – May 28, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of May 24, 2021 – May 28, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

May 24, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, announcing that the 2021 IRS Nationwide Tax Forum—an annual series of continuing education seminars for tax professionals—will be held virtually from July 20, 2021, through August 19, 2021.

May 26, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, announcing the disbursement of more than 1.8 million Economic Impact Payments worth more than $3.5 billion, bringing the total amount of disbursements under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to nearly 167 million payments worth approximately $391 billion.

May 27, 2021: The IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2021-10 and an accompanying news release, setting forth the overpayment and underpayment interest rates under section 6621 of the Code for Q3 of 2021.

May 28, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Le Chen in our Washington, DC, office for this week’s roundup.




Supreme Court Opens Door to APA Challenge of Overreaching IRS Information Reporting Regime

In CIC Services, LLC v. Internal Revenue Service, a unanimous US Supreme Court allowed CIC, a tax advisor, to proceed with a pre-enforcement challenge to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) “reportable transaction” regime. CIC alleged that the IRS violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it issued Notice 2016-66 (Notice), deeming certain micro-captive insurance transactions as “reportable transactions” and sought an order enjoining enforcement of the Notice. The IRS sought to avoid judicial review by hiding behind the Anti-Injunction Act’s (AIA) bar on suits brought “for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax.” Disagreeing with the trial and appellate courts, the Supreme Court allowed CIC’s suit to proceed, finding that CIC was challenging a regulatory mandate separate from any tax. As the Court explained, “The tax appears on the scene – as criminal penalties do too – only to sanction that mandate’s violation.” By choosing to address their concerns about micro-captive transactions by imposing a non-tax reporting obligation, Congress and the IRS “took suits to enjoin their regulatory response outside the Anti-Injunction Act’s domain.”

On remand, the Court’s decision leaves open questions that the lower courts must now address while also providing meaningful clues about how the Court may approach future disputes over IRS enforcement strategies. Such questions include: (1) does the reportable transaction regime as the IRS currently administers it violate the APA (See: Mann Construction, Inc. v. United States, No. 1:20-cv-11307 (E.D. Mich. May 13, 2021) (holding that IRS Notice requiring disclosure of listed transactions was not subject to APA’s notice-and-comment requirement); (2) would the AIA bar a suit to enjoin enforcement of a reporting obligation brought by a taxpayer, as opposed to an advisor; (3) how onerous must the challenged requirement be; (4) how disconnected from the tax penalty must the challenged requirement be and (5) is the existence of criminal penalties sufficient and/or necessary to exempt a challenge from the AIA?

Practice Point: APA challenges in tax cases have steadily increased since the Supreme Court’s rejection of tax exceptionalism 10 years ago in Mayo Foundation for Medical Education & Research v. United States, 562 U.S. 44 (2011). As tax law continues to get more complicated and the IRS issues additional guidance, we can expect this trend to continue. Understanding how to use the APA to challenge the overreaching of the IRS is an important tool for taxpayers and tax advisors alike. In the absence of a clear congressional mandate, any new enforcement policy issued by the IRS may be fair game for an APA challenge. The Supreme Court has opened the door to judicial review of unsanctioned IRS programs that place unfair burdens on taxpayers. And, this issue extends beyond the reportable transaction regime, including to the information reporting proposals recently announced by the Biden Administration.




Biden Administration Proposals Will Greatly Enhance IRS’ Ability to Identify Cryptocurrency Transactions

The Biden Administration and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continue to focus heavily on cryptocurrency tax enforcement issues. On May 20, 2021, the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released the American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda, a 22-page report detailing tax compliance measures that are to be included as part of US President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan. The report sets forth a number of initiatives designed to “close the tax gap,” identify the underreporting of tax liabilities and detect tax evasion. These measures, which are part of an $80 billion proposal for the IRS, would significantly enhance the agencies’ ability to address the challenges involved with finding taxes that result from virtual currency transactions.

The Treasury’s report notes that “[c]ryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion.” To address this issue, the Biden Administration is proposing “additional resources for the IRS to address the growth of cryptoassets.”

Most notably, the Biden Administration is proposing enhanced reporting requirements for domestic and foreign financial accounts that specifically address cryptocurrency. Financial institutions, including “cryptoasset exchange accounts and payment service accounts that accept cryptocurrencies” would be required to submit third-party annual reports of all “gross inflows and outflows” from business and personal accounts to the IRS using a form similar to the IRS 1099-INT. Additionally, “businesses that receive cryptoassets with a fair market value of more than $10,000 would be reported on” in a manner similar to how cash transactions are reported on Currency Transaction Reports. These new reporting requirements would dramatically increase the IRS’ ability to identify and detect unreported cryptocurrency transactions.

The report also reemphasizes the need to devote additional funding to the IRS. The Biden Administration is seeking $80 billion in additional funding so that the Treasury and IRS can, among other things, hire “new specialized enforcement staff” and “revitalize[e] the IRS’s examination of large corporations, partnerships, and global high-wealth and high-income individuals.”

Additionally, the Biden Administration plans to overhaul the IRS’ IT systems and capabilities. These IT enhancements are designed to “help support a staff capable of deploying new analytical techniques” and “developing machine learning capabilities [that] will enable the IRS to leverage the information it collects to better identify tax returns for compliance review.” Given the inherent difficulties in identifying cryptocurrency users who have failed to comply with the internal revenue laws, increased data collection and analytics capabilities would be invaluable for the IRS.

The IRS has already been ramping up its cryptocurrency tax enforcement efforts by issuing John Doe summons to various cryptocurrency exchanges, working with industry experts and foreign law enforcement. If implemented, the American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda would provide the IRS with extensive new tools and resources for these ongoing enforcement activities.

Practice Point: If you have engaged in cryptocurrency transactions, now is the time to analyze whether you have any civil or criminal exposure and prepare for a government inquiry by gathering all of your transaction records. For [...]

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Weekly IRS Roundup May 17 – May 21, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of May 17, 2021 – May 21, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

May 17, 2021: The IRS issued Revenue Ruling 2021-9, providing various prescribed interest rates for federal income tax purposes for June 2021.

May 17, 2021: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2021-24, providing procedures for individuals who are not required to file federal income tax returns to receive advance Child Tax Credit payments and third-round Economic Impact Payments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), as well as 2020 recovery rebate credits under earlier coronavirus-related legislation.

May 17, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, reminding taxpayers that May 17 is the filing deadline for most individual income tax returns and summarizing various e-filing and extension options.

May 17, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, announcing that the first monthly payments under the Child Tax Credit, as expanded by ARPA, will be made to eligible families on July 15, 2021.

May 18, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-31 and an accompanying news release, providing guidance on the temporary premium assistance for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) health insurance benefits, and the associated COBRA premium assistance credit, enacted by ARPA.

May 19, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-33, providing the monthly update to certain interest rates used for pension plan funding and distribution purposes.

May 19, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, summarizing various tax benefits available to individuals experiencing homelessness, the rural poor and other underserved groups and urging employers and community groups to spread information about such benefits and assist such individuals in filing 2020 tax returns.

May 20, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, urging taxpayers who missed the recent May 17 tax-filing deadline to file their tax returns as soon as possible to obtain refunds or limit penalties and interest.

May 21, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-32, providing the 2021 inflation adjustment factors and reference prices for the renewable electricity production credit, refined coal production credit and Indian coal production credit under section 45 of the Code.

May 21, 2021: The IRS issued an Action on Decision, announcing that it would not acquiesce to Machacek v. Comm’r, 906 F.3d 429 (6th Cir. 2018), which held that the economic benefits of a compensatory split-dollar life insurance arrangement may be treated as a distribution under section 301 of the Code.

May 21, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Le Chen in our Washington, DC, office for this week’s roundup.




Weekly IRS Roundup May 10 – May 14, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of May 10, 2021 – May 14, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

May 10, 2021: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2021-25, announcing various inflation-adjusted amounts relevant to health savings accounts (HSAs) for calendar year 2022.

May 10, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-26 and an accompanying news release, clarifying that unused amounts from dependent care assistance programs for 2020 that are carried over to 2021 or 2022 (pursuant to coronavirus-related legislation) remain excludible from gross income for those later years.

May 11, 2021: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2021-26, providing procedures under section 446(e) of the Code for certain foreign corporations to obtain automatic IRS consent to change to the alternative depreciation system of accounting under section 168(g) of the Code.

May 11, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, providing an overview of certain key tax provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), including provisions retroactive to the 2020 taxable year.

May 12, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, announcing a ninth round of Economic Impact Payments consisting of nearly one million payments worth more than $1.8 billion, bringing the total amount of disbursements under ARPA to approximately 165 million payments worth approximately $388 billion.

May 13, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, announcing that, in response to recent disruptions to the fuel supply chain, it is waiving penalties for failure to make semi-monthly deposits of excise tax on the sale of dyed diesel fuel for highway use. The relief is retroactive to May 7, 2021, and is in effect through May 21, 2021, and the IRS stated that it is closely monitoring the situation and will provide additional relief as needed.

May 13, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, extending the deadline to apply for 2022 membership on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, a federal advisory committee formed to identify taxpayer concerns and make recommendations for improving IRS service, through June 1, 2021.

May 14, 2021: The IRS issued Announcement 2021-10, clarifying that the boundaries of qualified opportunity zones created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are unaffected by the results of the 2020 decennial census.

May 14, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, announcing that victims of storms and tornadoes that occurred in Tennessee in late March and early April would have until August 2, 2021, to file individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.

May 14, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, announcing that it has commenced issuing refunds to taxpayers who paid taxes on 2020 unemployment compensation, compensation that ARPA later excluded from 2020 taxable income.

May 14, [...]

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Weekly IRS Roundup May 3 – May 7, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of May 3, 2021 – May 7, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

May 3, 2021: The IRS issued a news release announcing the opening of the application period for 2022 grants under the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) program, an IRS program to assist organizations in providing pro bono representation to taxpayers who are low income or speak English as a second language (ESL) in federal tax disputes.

May 4, 2021: The IRS issued a news release as part of National Hurricane Preparedness Week and National Wildfire Awareness Month, reminding taxpayers of certain best practices to minimize the effect of natural disasters on tax compliance.

May 5, 2021: The IRS issued a news release announcing an eighth round of Economic Impact Payments consisting of more than 1.1 million payments totaling more than $2 billion, bringing the total amount of disbursements under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) to approximately 164 million payments worth approximately $386 billion.

May 5, 2021: The IRS issued a news release announcing the development of Projected Contract Award Date, a web app designed to increase efficiency in procurement by using statistical models to forecast the date on which contracts will be awarded.

May 6, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-29, announcing that the reference price under section 45K(d)(2)(C) of the Code, which is relevant for certain Code sections regarding oil and gas production, is $37.07 for calendar year 2020.

May 6, 2021: The IRS issued Notice 2021-30, announcing that the applicable percentage under section 613A of the Code, which is used to determine percentage depletion for oil and gas produced from marginal properties, is 15% for calendar year 2021.

May 6, 2021: The IRS issued a news release reminding calendar-year tax-exempt organizations that annual Form 990 information returns and certain other filings are due on May 17, 2021.

May 7, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., Private Letter Rulings, Technical Advice Memorandums and Chief Counsel Advice).

Special thanks to Le Chen in our Washington, DC, office for this week’s roundup.




Finding John Doe, Part II: IRS Secures Another Victory to “Root Out” Virtual Currency Tax Noncompliance

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has scored another significant victory in its rapidly increasing virtual currency tax enforcement efforts. On May 5, 2021, the US District Court for the Northern District of California entered an order authorizing the IRS to serve a John Doe summons on popular cryptocurrency exchange, Payward Ventures Inc. d/b/a Kraken (Kraken). Specifically, the court’s order grants the IRS permission to serve a John Doe summons on Kraken in order to obtain information on US taxpayers who conducted the equivalent of at least $20,000 in total transactions for each year from 2016 to 2020.

If the IRS follows its playbook from the Coinbase summons, its victory here and with the Poloniex summons (upheld by a court in Massachusetts a few weeks ago), will likely result in thousands of US taxpayers receiving a letter from the IRS regarding their virtual currency transactions. As noted in its response to the court, over the past few years the IRS has learned a great deal about analyzing these transactions and is in possession of information from foreign virtual currency exchanges it’s also analyzing. This victory, coupled with the IRS’ increased knowledge of virtual currency transactions, is a big step in its efforts to, as stated in the IRS’ court filing, “root out tax noncompliance.”

As we previously noted in “Finding John Doe: IRS Steps up Enforcement Efforts to Take the Anonymity Out of Virtual Currency,” the court ordered the government to submit a response explaining its need for the information requested in its summons to Kraken. The government’s response indicates that the IRS has made significant progress in its analysis of summoned data from other cryptocurrency exchanges, such as Coinbase, and its ability to follow leads in the cryptocurrency marketplace. The court’s order approving the summons significantly reinforces the strength of the IRS’ crypto pursuit. These efforts are not solely focused on identifying tax noncompliance at a single exchange like Kraken but to identify the conduct for individuals transacting in cryptocurrency with Kraken accounts who may have additional accounts at other exchanges.

In citing its need for additional information to the court, the IRS expressly stated that in its experience from processing the Coinbase summons information, it has learned that taxpayers will use aliases, false addresses, post office boxes, fictitious entity names or other means to disguise their true identity. Taxpayers who create and use false information are more likely to evade their taxes, the IRS argued. The summons approved by the court requires Kraken to produce extensive records and data regarding its accountholders. Among other things, the summons requires Kraken to produce the following for each US-based account with at least $20,000 in annual transactions:

  • Account registration records and user profile information, including name, date of birth, taxpayer ID number, physical address, email address and telephone number
  • History of any IP addresses used to access the account
  • Payment [...]

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IRS Releases Guidance on Cryptocurrency Hard Forks

On April 9, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Chief Counsel Advice memo 202114020 (Hard Fork CCA), which details the potential tax consequences for taxpayers who held Bitcoin prior to the August 1, 2017, Bitcoin hard fork. While the Hard Fork CCA concerns the taxation of a particular cryptocurrency transaction, it has additional significance because it adds to the limited guidance available regarding the proper taxation of cryptocurrency more generally.

IN DEPTH

A cryptocurrency hard fork occurs when the blockchain on which cryptocurrency transactions are recorded permanently splits. The holder of the cryptocurrency generally has no control or notice that the hard fork is about to occur. The result is two separate blockchains with two separate sets of rules for recording transactions.

Bitcoin underwent a hard fork on August 1, 2017, and resulted in two separate sets of protocols for Bitcoin, as well as a new cryptocurrency called Bitcoin Cash. The result of this hard fork was that individuals holding Bitcoin in a distributed ledger now held a unit of Bitcoin Cash for each unit of Bitcoin previously held.

The Hard Fork CCA reached two conclusions concerning the Bitcoin hard fork. First, it determined that a taxpayer who received Bitcoin Cash because of the hard fork has gross income pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 61. Second, it determined that the date of receipt and fair market value of the income depends on when the taxpayer obtains dominion and control over the Bitcoin Cash. The Hard Fork CCA relies on the statutory language of IRC Section 61(a)(3) and the well-established case law of Commissioner v. Glenshaw Glass Company (348 U.S. 426, 431 (1955) in reaching this result. Those sources define gross income as “all income from whatever source derived,” and provide that all gains or undeniable accessions to wealth, clearly realized, over which a taxpayer has complete dominion are included in gross income. The Hard Fork CCA also concludes that an impacted taxpayer gains dominion over Bitcoin Cash when they have the ability to sell, transfer or exchange the Bitcoin Cash.

Despite the fact that the Hard Fork CCA deals specifically with the consequences of the Bitcoin hard fork, the dearth of IRS guidance on the taxation of cryptocurrencies means the Hard Fork CCA will likely have broad importance to taxpayers who invest in other cryptocurrencies and similar digital assets. Most taxpayers hold cryptocurrencies through a cryptocurrency exchange platform. Coinbase, for example, which recently underwent a highly publicized initial public offering (IPO) and IRS summons for information concerning its participants, is one of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges. (Additional detail regarding the Coinbase summons is available on our Tax Controversy 360 blog.) After a hard fork, some exchanges immediately adopt the new cryptocurrency and permit its use on the exchange; however, others only do so after a period of evaluation, if ever. The Hard Fork CCA takes the position that a taxpayer who privately holds their Bitcoin using a private key to [...]

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Weekly IRS Roundup April 26 – April 30, 2021

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of April 26, 2021 – April 30, 2021. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

April 26, 2021: The IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2021-23, making superseding changes to earlier Revenue Procedures related to the Child Tax Credit under section 24 of the Code, the Earned Income Credit under section 32 of the Code and the Premium Tax Credit under section 36B of the Code in order to reflect statutory amendments made by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).

April 26, 2021: The IRS issued a news release reporting the results of its March 2021 inaugural National Virtual Settlement Month, an IRS-coordinated nationwide initiative to provide pro bono legal advice to pro se US Tax Court litigants.

April 27, 2021: The IRS issued corrections to final regulations published in December 2020 regarding the elimination of the deduction for expenses associated with certain employer-provided transportation and commuting benefits under section 274 of the Code.

April 27, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, describing various electronic services it provides and urging taxpayers and tax professionals to use such services to speed up the processing of tax returns, payments and refunds.

April 28, 2021: The IRS issued a news release announcing a seventh round of Economic Impact Payments consisting of nearly two million payments totaling more than $4.3 billion, bringing the total amount of disbursements under ARPA to approximately 163 million payments worth approximately $384 billion.

April 29, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, providing information and resources to assist with tax compliance by gig economy workers and taxpayers who claimed unemployment compensation in 2020.

April 29, 2021: The IRS issued a news release, reminding taxpayers of the availability of tax-filing extensions upon request and listing certain categories of taxpayers who automatically obtain extensions without request.

April 30, 2021: The IRS issued Announcement 2021-8, listing attorneys, Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and other practitioners who have received disciplinary sanctions for violating the regulations governing practice before the IRS.

April 30, 2021: The IRS issued a news release announcing the release of updated 2021 versions of Schedules K-2 and K-3 for Forms 1065, 1120-S and 8865. The updated Schedules are intended to provide greater clarity regarding the reporting of certain international tax items with respect to pass-through entities.

April 30, 2021: The IRS issued a news release announcing that it is now accepting grant applications by eligible organizations under the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, which provide tax assistance services to elderly taxpayers and underserved communities, respectively.

April 30, 2021: The IRS released its weekly list of written determinations (e.g., [...]

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