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Weekly IRS Roundup July 27 – July 31, 2020

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of July 27, 2020 – July 31, 2020. Additionally, for continuing updates on the tax impact of COVID-19, please visit our resource page here.

July 28, 2020: The IRS issued final regulations providing guidance about the limitation on the deduction for business interest expense after amendment of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The regulations provide guidance to taxpayers on how to calculate the limitation, what constitutes interest for purposes of the limitation, which taxpayers and trades or businesses are subject to the limitation and how the limitation applies in consolidated group, partnership, international and other contexts.

July 28, 2020: The IRS published a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning rules that provide additional guidance on various business interest expense deduction limitation issues not addressed in the final regulations, including more complex issues related to the amendments made by the CARES Act.

July 28, 2020: The IRS added frequently asked questions regarding the aggregation rules under section 448(c)(2) that apply to the section 163(j) small business exemption.

July 29, 2020: The IRS posted a practice unit on issues concerning the receipt of dividends or interest from a related controlled foreign corporation.

July 29, 2020: The IRS posted a practice unit on accuracy-related penalties under section 6662.

July 29, 2020: The IRS published a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning regulations to implement legislative changes to sections 263A, 448, 460 and 471 that simplify the application of those tax accounting provisions for certain businesses having average annual gross receipts that do not exceed $25 million, adjusted for inflation. The notice also contains proposed regulations regarding certain special accounting rules for long-term contracts under section 460 to implement legislative changes applicable to corporate taxpayers. The proposed regulations generally affect taxpayers with average annual gross receipts of not more than $25 million (adjusted for inflation). The IRS also requested comments regarding the application of section 460 (or other special methods of accounting) to a contract with income that is accounted for in part under section 460 (or other special method) and in part under section 451. Comments must be received by September 14, 2020.

July 31, 2020: The IRS published a notice of proposed rulemaking concerning proposed regulations that provide guidance under section 1061. Section 1061 recharacterizes certain net long-term capital gains of a partner that holds one or more applicable partnership interests as short-term capital gains. The regulations also amend existing regulations on holding periods to clarify the holding period of a partner’s interest in a partnership that includes in whole or in part an applicable partnership interest and/or a profits interest. The regulations affect taxpayers who directly or indirectly [...]

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Is an Increase in LB&I Assertion of Penalties on the Horizon?

On May 31, 2019, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report indicating that changes may be in the works regarding assertion of accuracy-related penalties in examinations handled by the IRS Large Business & International (LB&I) Division.

The TIGTA report reviewed the results of closed LB&I examinations for the fiscal years 2015 through 2017 and concluded that the IRS assessed accuracy-related penalties upon only 6% of the 4,600 examined returns with additional tax assessments of $10,000 or more. In comparison, the IRS Small Business / Self Employed (SB/SE) Division assessed accuracy-related penalties upon 25% of its examined returns with additional tax assessments of $10,000 or more. (more…)




National Taxpayer Advocate 2016 Report – Penalties

Every year, the Taxpayer Advocate Service’s (TAS) Annual Report to Congress provides a unique perspective regarding the workings of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and how the IRS relates to the vast majority of taxpayers. That insight is particularly valuable when the IRS chooses to assert penalties—one of the most policy-driven decisions that the IRS can make. In its 2016 report, the TAS makes a number of important observations and recommendations related to three of the most commonly asserted types of penalties—accuracy-related penalties, failure-to-file and failure-to-pay penalties, and the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty.

Accuracy-Related Penalties

The TAS identified 122 cases litigated between June 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016 (the reporting period), involving accuracy-related penalties.  Of those cases, the IRS prevailed in full in 86 cases (70 percent), taxpayers prevailed in full in 20 cases (16 percent), and 16 cases were split decisions (13 percent) (percentages were rounded down in the original report). Unusual this year were the number of split decisions and the number of taxpayer wins in pro se cases. Many cases involving the negligence penalty turned upon the taxpayer’s failure to maintain adequate books and records related to the adjustments at issue.

In 2013, the TAS issued a study noting that the IRS’s imposition of accuracy-related penalties, subsequently abated after an assessment and a successful taxpayer appeal (among other fact patterns), could lead to a perception of unfairness among taxpayers regarding the IRS’s manner of assertion of these penalties. The TAS cited this study in its 2016 report, and noted again that this conduct could be detrimental to voluntary taxpayer compliance and could undermine the purpose of accuracy-related penalties.

In fact, a main priority of the Annual Report overall is to improve voluntary compliance, a fundamental element of our tax system. The TAS notes that “unnecessary coercion” by the IRS—whether through unsustained penalties or otherwise—could have the effect of reducing voluntary compliance.

Failure-to-File / Failure-to-Pay Penalties

The TAS identified 45 total decisions involving failure-to-file and failure-to-pay penalties in the reporting period.  Of these, 28 cases involved taxpayers representing themselves. The majority of cases involved full or partial taxpayer losses.

The TAS noted, consistent with our experience, that the IRS frequently relies upon selection of failure-to-file and failure-to-pay cases through its Reasonable Cause Assistant software, which makes the initial decision to impose the relevant penalties in most cases without significant human involvement.  Personal review of the penalty decision does not generally occur until after the taxpayer files an administrative appeal.  The TAS advocated for heightened personal review of these penalties and heightened consideration of relevant facts and circumstances potentially supporting abatement.

Trust Fund Recovery Penalties

The TAS noted that several Trust Fund Recovery Penalty cases this year had successfully challenged whether the penalty was properly noticed and assessed. United States v. Appelbaum, 117 A.F.T.R.2d 2016-633 (W.D.N.C.); Romano-Murphy v. United States, 816 F.3d 707 (11th Cir. 2016).

The TAS further discussed a number of unsuccessful taxpayer challenges to assessment of the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty on grounds of [...]

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