On Friday, September 15, the Tax Court announced that it will be holding its 2018 Judicial Conference in Chicago, Illinois, on the campus of Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law on March 26-28, 2018. The press release provides:

The 2018 Tax Court Judicial Conference will be held in Chicago, Illinois, on the campus of Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law on Monday evening, March 26, 2018, Tuesday, March 27, 2018 (entire day), and Wednesday, March 28, 2018 (half day). The purpose of the judicial conference is to provide attendees with the opportunity to (1) review and discuss issues of material interest regarding the tax litigation process, (2) discuss ways in which the tax litigation process in the Court may be improved, and (3) network with fellow Tax Court practitioners. In addition to the Judges of the United States Tax Court, the Court intends to invite representatives from the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Justice, private practice, low-income taxpayer clinics, academia, Capitol Hill, and other courts. A variety of plenary and breakout sessions will address issues relevant to practice before the Court.

Applications to attend the 2018 Tax Court Judicial Conference will be accepted from September 15, 2017, through November 15, 2017. An application form is available on the Court’s website at http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/judicial_conference_application.pdf. Please note that space is limited, and the Court may not be able to extend an invitation to all those who apply.

We have attended the Tax Court Judicial Conference on several occasions and have spoken on panels at the conference. The material presented is extremely informative and provides a unique opportunity to personally interact with judges and fellow Tax Court practitioners. Applications are being accepted from now through November 15, 2017, either by email or regular mail. If you plan to attend, please send us an email so we can say hello!

On August 3, 2017, President Donald Trump nominated two judges to the US Tax Court. The nominations were received in the US Senate (Senate) and referred to the Committee on Finance.

One of the nominees, Elizabeth Copeland, was previously nominated by President Barack Obama. Her previous nomination expired with the conclusion of the 114th Congress in January 2017. The Committee on Finance unanimously approved her previous nomination, but the nomination was never voted on by the full Senate. Copeland is a partner at the law firm Strasburger & Price, LLP. If confirmed, she will be assuming the position left vacant by the 2015 retirement of Judge James S. Halpern. Judge Halpern still performs judicial duties as a Senior Judge on recall.

The second nominee, Patrick Urda, is counsel to the deputy assistant attorney general in the US Department of Justice’s Tax Division. If confirmed, he will be assuming the position left vacant by the 2014 retirement of Judge Diane L. Kroupa. We previously covered the circumstances of Judge Kroupa’s retirement and related criminal proceedings.

Taxpayers can choose whether to litigate tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the US Tax Court (Tax Court), federal district court or the Court of Federal Claims. Claims brought in federal district court and the Court of Federal Claims are tax refund litigation: the taxpayer must first pay the tax, file a claim for refund, and file a complaint against the United States if the claim is not allowed. Claims brought in the Tax Court are deficiency cases: the taxpayer can file a petition against the IRS Commissioner after receiving a notice of deficiency and does not need to pay the tax beforehand.

As demonstrated in the chart below, approximately 97 percent of tax claims are instituted in the Tax Court. It should be noted that, after a taxpayer files a petition in Tax Court, the taxpayer no longer has the option of bringing the claim in any other court for the year(s) at issue.

Tax Court Versus Tax Refund Litigation

Source: https://www.irs.gov/uac/soi-tax-stats-chief-counsel-workload-tax-litigation-cases-by-type-of-case-irs-data-book-table-27

Continue Reading Overview of Tax Litigation Forums

On March 30, 2017, the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) published a report identifying numerous violations of taxpayer rights from 2012 to 2014 by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division (IRS CID) in structuring cases. TIGTA examined over 300 investigations for structuring in this time period and identified 21 cases in which taxpayer rights had been compromised.

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (BSA) requires US financial institutions to file reports of currency transactions exceeding $10,000. A provision of the BSA, 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a), prohibits structuring, that is, setting up a transaction for the purpose of evading this reporting requirement. Violations of the law can result in fines, imprisonment and asset forfeiture. This law is administered by the US Department of the Treasury, and one of its major goals is to monitor traffic in illegal-source funds (i.e., funds used in drug transactions or to support terrorism). Continue Reading Taxpayer Advocate Questions IRS CID’s Narrow Reading of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights

The Department of Justice (DOJ) Tax Division is responsible for litigating tax refund claims brought in Federal district courts and the Court of Federal Claims and handling appeals from decisions of the United States Tax Court (the Chief Counsel’s office is responsible for Tax Court litigation).  Effective January 23, 2017, David A. Hubbert became the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Tax Division.  He replaces Carolyn Ciraolo, who resigned on January 20, 2017.  A copy of the DOJ press release, which includes biographical information on Mr. Hubbert, can be found here.  In accordance with the change, the Internal Revenue Service on January 31, 2017, announced corresponding changes in the address for correspondence to the DOJ Tax Division and the signature block for any Notice of Appeal from a Tax Court case.

Practice Note:  The changing of the guard is routine when there is a change in the administration, as demonstrated by the prior resignation of William J. Wilkins as Chief Counsel.  However, this year may be a little different as the new administration seems determined to “shake things up.”  In the coming weeks and months, we expect a lot of personnel changes.  Stay tuned!

With the inauguration of President Trump, and the accompanying change of administration, the American people have been promised great change in all areas of the federal government. One question we at McDermott have been frequently asked since the election is: what should a taxpayer expect from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Tax Division while the transitions in the executive branch are taking place? Major tax policy changes are being discussed, but what about the immediate practical effects of a turnover in high-level personnel within these agencies, particularly if a taxpayer is under audit or investigation?

During a change in administration, taxpayers may be affected by any of the following:

  • If under audit, the exam team may ask for longer statute extensions than would otherwise apply, to account for possible delays in internal managerial-level approvals.
  • If a taxpayer is negotiating a settlement, and that settlement requires approval by the IRS National Office or the Assistant Attorney General for Tax, settlement approvals may be delayed due to personnel changes.
  • This applies to civil settlements reached with IRS Appeals, in Tax Court litigation, or in federal district court litigation. Delays are also possible for criminal agreements, including plea agreements, deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements.
  • Ongoing litigation (particularly appellate litigation) may be stayed or delayed, to the extent a case involves a policy position that the administration may want to change.
  • The regulatory freeze enacted by the Trump administration also affects procedural regulations, including proposed regulations related to the new partnership audit rules.

Initial comments from prospective Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin indicate that he believes IRS staffing should be increased, which would be a welcome change.  Any significant changes like this are likely to be long-term, however, so we are unlikely to see their effect for some time.

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.