Wrapping Up September – and Looking Forward to October

Upcoming Tax Controversy Activities in October:

October 12, 2017: Cate Battin, Kristen Hazel, Britt Haxton, Jane May, Sandra McGill, Diann Smith and Elizabeth Chao are hosting and presenting at the inaugural Tax in the City® event in Seattle, Washington. They will cover topics such as attorney-client privilege and the ethics of social media (CLE/CPE), recent developments around US Tax Reform, and updates on state and local tax issues for Seattle and the surrounding areas.

 October 25, 2017: Todd Welty and Lowell Yoder are speaking at the TEI 72nd Annual Conference in Toronto, Ontario, and will present “Repatriation: Strategy, Practice and the Road Ahead.”

November 2, 2017: Laura Gavioli, Kristen Hazel, Michael Louis, Cym Lowell, Damon Lyon, Denise Mudigere, Dave Noren, Kristina Novak, Andrew Roberson, Jay Singer, Mark Thomas and Michael Wilder are speaking at the TEI Global Tax Symposium in Houston, Texas, and covering the following topics: Multilateral Instruments & European Developments, Country by Country Reporting, Repatriation Strategies and the IRS Repatriation Campaign, Disclosures for Global Tax Strategies, and Treasury Center/Currency Issues. Continue Reading A 360-Degree View: September and October 2017

Substantial tax reform is underway and the business community is intently awaiting details of this activity with the aim of positioning themselves to maximize opportunities and minimize any costs or risks that reform may present. How will a cut in the corporate income tax rate, the potential adoption of a “territorial” dividend exemption system or the elimination or altering of recent regulations impact companies?

Continue Reading

Upcoming Tax Controversy Activities in September:

September 13, 2017: Tom Jones is presenting an update on Captive Tax in Charleston, South Carolina, at the South Carolina Captive Insurance Association Annual Conference.

September 14, 2017: Robin Greenhouse and Kristen Hazel will be speaking at McDermott Will & Emery’s Tax in the City®: A Women’s Tax Roundtable meeting in New York City about tax ethics.

September 18, 2017: Justin Jesse is speaking at the PLI Basics of International Taxation session in San Francisco about “Tax Concerns for US Persons Investing or Operating Outside of the US (Outbound Investments) – Active Business Operations.”

Wrapping up August:.

Our August 2017 blog posts are available on taxcontroversy360.com, or read each article by clicking on the titles below. To receive the latest on tax controversy news and commentary directly in your inbox as they are posted, click here to subscribe to our email list.

August 3, 2017: Tax Court Addresses “Issue of First Impression” Defense to Penalties

August 7, 2017: President Trump Nominates Copeland and Urda to US Tax Court

August 8, 2017: Record Numbers Are Giving Up US Citizenship

August 9, 2017: TIGTA Pounces on IRS Federal Records Retention Policies; Recommends Changes

August 11, 2017: The IRS Is Struck Down Again in Privilege Dispute

August 14, 2017: McDermott Named “Law Firm of the Year” at 2017 US Captive Services Awards

August 16, 2017: Grecian Magnesite Mining v. Commissioner: Foreign Investor Not Subject to US Tax on Sale of Partnership Interest

August 17, 2017: Sovereign Immunity Principles Bar Taxpayers from Challenging John Doe Summonses

August 23, 2017: Court Rejects Taxpayer’s Claim for US-Swiss Treaty Coverage

August 24, 2017: Internal Revenue Service Updates Golden Parachute Payments Audit Technique Guide, Signaling Key Items IRS May Review on Audit

August 25, 2017: IRS Criminal Investigation Division Announces Two New Initiatives

McDermott Will & Emery is pleased to announce our Captive Insurance team was named “Law Firm of the Year” at the 2017 US Captive Services Awards in Burlington, Vermont. Elizabeth Erickson, partner in our US & International Tax practice group, was on-site to accept the award on behalf of the Firm.

The judges noted that, “McDermott Will & Emery’s varied legal practice ensures captive clients can go to the firm on a range of issues – from claims and tax to regulatory and transactional.” The judges were impressed by the Firm’s “impressive book of case work and deep understanding of the captive sector.”

This is the second year in a row that McDermott earned a significant award from Captive Review. In 2016, the Firm received the “Onshore Law Firm of the Year” award for its contributions to the captive market through legal expertise and innovation, strategic vision and business winning client care. In past years, the Firm has also been named “Tax Advisory Firm of the Year” and “Captive Healthcare Specialist of the Year.”

McDermott’s Captive Insurance team provides integrated tax, corporate, regulatory and insurance coverage, and reinsurance claims and disputes services to captives and industry participants in high-profile matters affecting the global insurance and reinsurance markets. The team includes McDermott’s insurance coverage practitioners who have decades of experience litigating and resolving high-exposure coverage and reinsurance disputes throughout the United States and in offshore jurisdictions, as well as precedential and other sensitive matters affecting CGL, D&O, E&O, EPL, property, crime, marine, legacy and other lines of business.

For more information on the 2017 US Captive Service Awards, please click here.

by Reciprocity Studio

The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) yesterday released the fiscal 2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which sets forth proposed annual funding for the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other related agencies. The proposal will be considered in the subcommittee today. For text of the bill, see here.

In its press release, the HAC described the bill as one that would “slash the IRS, fund US courts, invest in programs to boost economic opportunity, and scale back harmful regulations.” See here for the press release. The HAC was particularly hard on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), proposing to cut its budget by $149 million. These cuts come after successive reductions in the IRS’s budget for the last several years. The draft legislation contains several provisions that the HAC believed necessary “to address underperformance and previous poor management and decision-making at the IRS,” including:

  • A prohibition on a proposed regulation related to political activities and the tax-exempt status of IRC section 501(c)(4) organizations. The proposed regulation could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of many nonprofit organizations, and inhibit citizens from exercising their right to freedom of speech;
  • A prohibition on funds for bonuses or to rehire former employees unless employee conduct and tax compliance is given consideration;
  • A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs;
  • A prohibition on funds for the IRS to target individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights;
  • A prohibition on funds for the production of inappropriate videos and conferences;
  • A new prohibition on funds to implement new IRS guidance on conservation easements;
  • A new prohibition on funds to determine church exemptions, unless the IRS Commissioner has consented and Congress has been notified; and
  • A requirement for extensive reporting on IRS spending and information technology.

Despite reducing the IRS’s overall budget, the draft legislation expressed a desire for funding to improve taxpayer services, including pre-filing assistance and education, filing and account services, and taxpayer advocacy services. For example, the IRS is directed to maintain an employee training program that includes “taxpayers’ rights, dealing courteously with taxpayers, cross-cultural relations, ethics, and the impartial application of tax law.” As we have previously discussed (see here and here), taxpayers’ right is a hot topic in both the US and around the world.

We will continue to monitor this matter and report back on the final budget in the future. Needless to say, reductions in the IRS’s budget will likely continue the trend of decreased enforcement activity and more uncertainty for taxpayers. Additionally, without additional resources and the imminent retirement of a large portion of IRS employees, the IRS will continue to be forced to operate in an environment of substantially decreased resources. On the front lines, we are seeing a substantial reduction in the numbers and breadth of audits of some of the nation’s largest taxpayers. Moreover, with the decrease in IRS personnel, IRS Examinations and Appeals are lasting longer than ever before, and previously beneficial alternative dispute resolution techniques may be losing some of their benefits.

Recently, the Legal 500 US 2017 ranked McDermott’s Tax Controversy practice group as Tier 1. (The Legal 500 category for Tax Controversy is “US Taxes—Contentious.”) Five members of our federal tax controversy team—Todd Welty, Roger Jones, Jean Pawlow, Robin Greenhouse and Andrew Roberson—were specifically mentioned as part of the Firm’s “outstanding” practice. Welty, Jones and Pawlow all received the Legal 500’s “Leading Lawyer” designation. Jane May, the leader of McDermott’s State and Local Taxation group, was likewise recognized for her controversy expertise.

More generally, McDermott’s US and International Tax practice was honored in the Legal 500’s “US Taxes—Non-Contentious” and International Tax categories. Lowell Yoder, the head of our group, was given a “Leading Lawyer” designation in both categories. Jane May and Damon Lyon received recognition in US Taxes—Non-Contentious, and Caroline Ngo, Kristen Hazel, Phil Levine, Andrew Roberson and Tim Shuman received recognition in International Tax.

For 29 years, the Legal 500 has analyzed the capabilities of law firms around the globe, providing rankings on the strengths of law firms, individual lawyers and practice groups in more than 100 jurisdictions. These rankings are based on feedback from more than 250,000 in-house counsel and the independent assessment of law firm deals and confidential matters by the Legal 500’s researchers. As the Legal 500 puts it, “we highlight the practice area teams who are providing the most cutting edge and innovative advice to corporate counsel.”

Further, the Legal 500 elevated two of McDermott’s Tax Controversy lawyers—Roger Jones and Jean Pawlow—into its “Hall of Fame.” This elite group includes lawyers that have been named “Leading Lawyers” for six consecutive years and have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence.

McDermott’s full Legal 500 rankings can be found here.

Chambers USA, which releases an annual listing of rankings of law firms and attorneys in various practice areas, has released its 2017 edition. We are honored that Chambers USA has recognized McDermott’s tax practice and several of its attorneys in the latest rankings. A summary of McDermott’s tax rankings is listed below along with a complete list available here to all McDermott rankings.

In the nationwide rankings for Tax Controversy, we maintained our Band 2 ranking. In the state rankings for Tax, we are ranked in Band 1 for Illinois, Band 2 for Washington, DC and Band 3 for Texas.

On the tax controversy side, our team was recognized as known for a “Dominant presence in high-value tax disputes across the USA, fielding particular expertise in transfer pricing litigation and SALT work.” Clients gave us “10 out of 10 for client service,” and added: “They are great at investing in and building a long-term relationship.”  Particularly noted is the value for money we provide.  Clients agreed that they get good value from us: “It’s outstanding client service and worth every penny. Billing has been very detailed and understandable.

Several of our tax controversy attorneys were recognized by Chambers USA on the nationwide and state levels:

Chair of the firm’s tax controversy practice Todd Welty maintains an excellent reputation in the market for his tax controversy and litigation expertise. One impressed source comments: “His knowledge and trial expertise was phenomenal.” His impressive list of clients includes multinationals and Fortune 100 companies.

I have the utmost respect for Roger Jones’s litigation and controversy skills,” states one interviewee. His expert litigation practice sees him frequently act for major corporations at all levels of the federal court system.

Jean Pawlow regularly advises financial institutions on complex tax controversy matters. Observers indicate: “Her practice is very deep and diverse, and her clients benefit from that.

Andrew Roberson comes recommended as an “excellent tax controversy lawyer who has great instincts, is extremely personable and offers really good client skills.” His strong litigation practice is complemented by additional experience in resolving tax disputes in ADR proceedings.

Thomas Borders is a “great and experienced trial lawyer,” according to interviewees. He draws on his experience as a former IRS attorney to act on the full range of federal tax controversy matters, including defending against criminal investigations.

On April 5, 2017, in an unanimous court reviewed opinion, the United States Tax Court determined that disclosure of a worker’s tax return information to absolve the employer from liabilities arising out of the employer’s withholding requirement is not subject to the general prohibition against disclosing taxpayer return information pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6103, and does not shift the burden of proof to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Commissioner, 148 T.C. 11 (2017), the IRS determined that a number of the Mescalero Apache Tribe’s workers were not independent contractors, but employees. If the IRS prevailed in its worker reclassification determination then, as the employer, the Mescalero Apache Tribe would be jointly and severally liable for Federal income tax that should have been withheld on the workers’ earnings. To prevent double taxation, IRC Section 3402(d) provides that the IRS cannot collect from the employer the withholding tax liability if the employees have already paid income tax on their earnings. To prove its position that the workers were independent contractors and alternatively to reduce any potential withholding tax liability if the workers were classified as employees, the Mescalero Apache Tribe asked each worker to complete Form 4669, Statement of Payments Received. However, the Mescalero Apache Tribe had trouble locating each of its workers because many had moved or lived in hard-to-reach areas without phone service or basic utilities. Continue Reading IRS is Required to Search Tax Return Information Records to Help Determine Worker Classification

This week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Division (CID) released its annual report for 2016, continuing a message sent for several years now: that IRS CID’s staffing declines are affecting its core mission tax work. Core mission tax work is distinguished from other types of IRS CID investigations—such as terrorism or health care fraud—where tax elements are not the central focus of the investigation. Over the past four years, since 2012, the division has lost 447 agents, and this loss has resulted in a decline in “core mission” prosecutions (485 fewer cases than in 2012).

Despite these challenges, IRS CID continues to possess a high success rate, with an incarceration rate at or around 80 percent for at least the last 4 years. In 2016, IRS CID initiated 3,395 investigations, down from 5,314 in 2013. Of those, 2,699 were sentenced, with an average sentence of 41 months.

Practice Point: The 2016 annual report is yet more documentation of the long-term decline in IRS CID investigations; however, practitioners and taxpayers cannot count on this trend continuing in the new administration. In his confirmation hearings, Steven Mnuchin, the new Treasury Secretary expressed concern about lowered IRS staffing levels overall, but it is unclear whether these comments will result in substantive changes to reverse this trend. In this report, IRS CID is sending a clear message that budget restrictions and staffing attrition are impacting the division’s core mission of encouraging voluntary compliance through criminal deterrence.