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Fifth Circuit Rules that Law Firm Clients’ Identities Are Not Privileged

In Taylor Lohmeyer Law Firm P.L.L.C. v. United States, No. 19-50506, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that a Texas-based estate and tax-planning law firm (Firm) could not invoke the attorney-client privilege against an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) summons seeking the identity of its clients. According to an IRS revenue agent’s declaration submitted in support of the summons, the Firm became a target for IRS investigation following an audit of one of its clients, an individual who had used the Firm’s services to establish and operate various foreign accounts and entities, through which the individual had funneled millions of dollars of unreported income. The IRS issued a John Doe summons to the Firm seeking, amongst other things, the identities of other clients for whom it had established foreign accounts or entities. The Firm filed a petition to quash the summons in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas,...

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Kovel Protections Upheld | Government Loses Aggressive Arguments for Waiver of Privilege for Controversy Advice

On October 27, the US District Court for the District of Minnesota issued an opinion in United States v. Adams, No. 0:17-cr-00064-DWF-KMM (D. Minn. Oct. 27, 2018), addressing attorney-client privilege issues relevant to accountants working alongside tax attorneys. The court adopted a narrow, nuanced view of the waiver that applies when the taxpayer discloses an accountant’s work to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by filing an amended return. In Adams, the taxpayer is facing a 17 count superseding indictment in which the government alleges he spearheaded a scheme to defraud investors in two companies and to embezzle corporate funds for his personal benefit. In late 2017, the government added three counts of tax evasion to the indictment, alleging that amended returns the taxpayer filed in late 2011 for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 tax years were willfully false under IRC § 7206(1). The addition of the tax evasion charges is significant for the government’s...

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A 360-Degree View: September and October 2017

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,...

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Tax in the City® New York Event Success

Female tax professionals gathered in McDermott Will & Emery’s New York office for an annual New York rendition of Tax in the City®: A Women’s Tax Roundtable on Thursday, September 14. Featuring a CLE/CPE presentation about Privilege and the Ethics of Social Media by Kristen Hazel and Robin Greenhouse, an update on tax reform by Sandra McGill and an overview of recent state and local tax news by Alysse McLoughlin, the event culminated in a networking reception over cocktails. Topics covered at the event included: Best practices for preserving attorney-client privilege and work product protection; strategies to prevent an inadvertent waiver. Ethics of social media (think before you post). Tax reform: Where are we now (framework to be issued week of September 25 and legislation sometime in October, possibly after budget). What could tax reform look like (e.g., reduced tax rate, one-time tax on unrepatriated foreign earnings, move to territorial tax with DRD...

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The IRS Is Struck Down Again in Privilege Dispute

Courts continue to strike down the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as it continues to test the bounds of the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine through the issuance of improper summonses. In the last several years, the IRS has filed numerous summons enforcement proceedings related to the production of documents generally protected by the attorney-client privilege, tax-practitioner privilege, and/or work product doctrine. These summonses include overt requests for “tax advice” and “tax analysis,” which several courts have refused to enforce. For example, see Schaeffler v. United States, 806 F.3d 34 (2d Cir. 2015). Once again, in United States v. Micro Cap KY Insurance Co., Inc. (Eastern District of Kentucky), a federal district court rejected the IRS’s arguments and refused to enforce an inappropriate summons. The opinion is available here. The IRS filed this enforcement proceeding seeking to compel the production of confidential communications...

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John Doe Intervenes in Virtual Currency Summons Enforcement Case

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has broad authority under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 7602 to issue administrative summonses to taxpayers and third parties to gather information to ascertain the correctness of any return. If the IRS does not know the identity of the parties whose records are covered by the summons, the IRS may issue a “John Doe” summons only upon receipt of a court order. The court will issue the order if the IRS has satisfied the three criteria provided in IRC Section 7609(f): The summons relates to the investigation of a particular person or ascertainable group or class of persons, There is a reasonable basis for believing that such person or group or class of persons may fail or may have failed to comply with any provision of any internal revenue law, and The information sought to be obtained from the examination of the records (and the identity of the person or persons with respect to whose liability the summons is issued) is...

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The Interplay Between Tax Planning and IP Planning

On November 3, 2016, we presented at the Chicago Tax Club’s symposium regarding tax planning and intellectual property (IP) planning within a multinational corporation. The presentation covered various areas, including the importance of coordination between IP and tax groups when engaging in IP planning, the differences in the IP arena and the tax arena with respect to IP matters that can impact tax planning positions, and tax planning with IP holding companies. From a tax controversy perspective, we discussed being prepared for an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit with respect to IP planning, with a focus on contemporaneous documentation to support the taxpayer’s position, having audit ready files (including adhering to document retention policies), reviewing IRS audit materials (e.g., International Practice Units) to understand what the IRS may ask for during the audit, and being cognizant of the various privileges (e.g., attorney-client, tax...

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Facebook Battles IRS In Summons Enforcement Case

Facebook is in a protracted battle with the IRS related to its off-shoring of IP to an Irish affiliate. Read more here. The IRS issued an administrative summons for the documents, and Facebook has refused to comply with the summons. The IRS is asking the court to enforce the summons and force Facebook to turn over the requested documents. The court agreed that on its face, the summons was issued for a legitimate purpose. Facebook will now have to tell the court why it refuses to turn over the documents. Review the court order here. Assumedly, Facebook is asserting that it is not required to disclose the requested materials based upon a claim of privilege. The case demonstrates that the IRS is aggressively seeking documents and information from taxpayers and their representatives in cases involving international tax issues.

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Two Current Tax Controversies Utilize ‘Quick Peek’ Agreements to Resolve Privilege Disputes

Due to the enormous amount of electronic data stored by companies in the modern era, discovery requests can involve millions of documents which need to be reviewed prior to being turned over to the opposing party.  In conducting their analysis of this overwhelming quantity of information, litigants must, amongst other things, detect and exclude any privileged material.  Should a party inadvertently fail to do so before such records reach the hands of the opposing counsel, he/she will be deemed to waive privilege in many jurisdictions.  Given the massive quantity of data, however, such mistakes are practically unavoidable. Federal Rule of Evidence (FRE) 502 was enacted in 2008 in an attempt to combat the issue of inevitable human error and the costs associated with parties’ efforts to avoid it.  FRE 502(d) allows parties to request the court to grant an order stipulating that a disclosure of privileged material does not waive any claims of privilege with...

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