On February 7, 2018, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released its second quarter update to the 2017-2018 Priority Guidance Plan to identify tax issues it believes should be addressed through regulations, revenue rulings, revenue procedures, notices and other published administrative guidance. The Priority Guidance Plan contains projects the Treasury hopes to complete during the 12-month period from July 2, 2017 through June 30, 2018. We previously posted on the first quarter 2017-2018 Priority Guidance plan here.

Most of the projects do not involve the issuance of new regulations, instead focus on guidance to taxpayers on a variety of tax issues important to individuals and businesses in the form of: (1) revocations of final, temporary, or proposed regulations (for our prior coverage, see here); (2) notices, revenue rulings and revenue procedures; (3) simplifying and burden reducing amendments to existing regulations; (4) proposed regulations; or (5) final regulations adopting proposed regulations. The initial 2017-2108 Priority Guidance Plan consisted of 198 guidance projects, 30 of which have already been completed. The second quarter update reflects 29 additional projects, including priority items as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) legislation enacted on December 22, 2017, and guidance published or released from October 13, 2017 through December 31, 2017.

Continue Reading IRS Releases Second Quarter Update to 2017-2018 Priority Guidance Plan

On September 29, 2017, Judge Mark Holmes of the United States Tax Court (Tax Court) issued an order in the estate tax valuation case brought by the Estate of Michael Jackson (the Estate). In the case, the Estate moved to strike the testimony of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) valuation expert witness on the grounds that he lied. The IRS acknowledged that its expert “did not tell the truth when he testified that he did not work on or write a valuation report for the IRS Examination Division in the third-party taxpayer audit.” Apparently, the expert had worked on the valuation of Whitney Houston’s Estate on behalf of the IRS, and failed to list the engagement in his report. He also omitted one publication that he wrote and one case in which he provided expert-witness testimony at a deposition.

The question for the Court was the proper remedy for the omissions, with sanctions ranging from striking all of the expert’s testimony (and thereby depriving the IRS of the only evidence in its favor on the key issues in the case) to discounting the expert’s testimony and weight to be given to his opinions. The Court decided to take the latter route.

The Court explained that striking expert testimony pursuant to Tax Court Practice and Procedure Rule 143(g) (governing expert witness reports) occurs when a putative expert omits information from the report without good cause for the omission. In this case, the Court explained that the IRS’s expert failed to disclose his valuation work on his long list of expert-testimony engagements attached to his resume, but ruled that the omission was merely a “clerical error.” However, the expert did provide false testimony at trial when he testified he did not work on or write a valuation report in the matter involving Whitney Houston’s Estate. The Court determined that there had to be some negative consequences for the expert’s false testimony, and settled on discounting his credibility and opinions.

Practice Point: The order in Estate of Michael Jackson, as well as the Tax Court’s prior opinion in Tucker v. Commissioner, TC Memo. 2017-183, highlight a very important aspect of preparing an expert report for submission in Tax Court: it must be complete and accurate at the time of its submission. It is good practice to run a litigation database search (e.g., Lexis or Westlaw) on your expert’s testimony experience as a check on what the expert has listed in his report.

On August 2, 2016, the US Department of the Treasury issued long-awaited, proposed regulations on the valuation of interests in family-controlled entities for estate, gift and generation-skipping tax purposes. If finalized, these new rules are likely to substantially increase estate taxes payable by the estates of owners of family-controlled businesses, farms, real estate companies and investment companies. They would overturn well-settled law that for decades has allowed valuation discounts to be applied to these interests. Estate planners have long relied on the current rules in minimizing the transfer tax cost of passing family-controlled entities from one generation to the next.

The new rules are in proposed form and are not effective until issued in final form. This will probably not occur until sometime next year at the earliest. Proposed regulations often are changed, sometimes materially, before they are finalized. And sometimes they are not finalized quickly or at all. As a result, no one can be certain of the final form that these rules will take or when they will become effective, if at all.

That said, for some of you this may be an opportunity to plan your estate under current law for at least a few more months. We recommend that you discuss with your estate planner whether you should consider further steps now in light of these possible rule changes. If you have transactions in process, you may want to consider accelerating their completion. At a minimum, this possible law change may act as a prompt for families to have needed—perhaps long overdue—tax, succession and estate planning discussions with their professional advisers.

View recent press coverage of the proposed regulations.

Read our past discussions of these regulations and also our post on recent developments.