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Weekly IRS Roundup November 25 – 29, 2019

Presented below is our summary of significant Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance and relevant tax matters for the week of November 25 – 29, 2019.

November 26, 2019: The IRS issued a News Release regarding a Revenue Procedure that updates the rules for using per diem rates to substantiate, under section 274 and Treas. Reg. § 1.274-5,  the amount of ordinary and necessary business expenses paid or incurred while traveling away from home, including employees’ lodging, meals, and incidental expenses. The IRS noted that taxpayers are not required to use a method described in the Revenue Procedure and may instead substantiate actual allowable expenses provided they maintain adequate records.

November 26, 2019: The IRS released the Fall 2019 Statistics of Income Bulletin, which is issued quarterly by the Statistics of Income Division of the IRS and provides the most recent statistics available from tax and information returns filed by US taxpayers. The bulletin focused on high-income individual income tax return data from 2016, individual noncash charitable contributions from 2017, and partnership returns from 2017.

November 26, 2019: The IRS issued Interim Guidance under Internal Revenue Manual 4.31.9 that outlines field examination procedures for use by LB&I and SB/SE employees when auditing partnership returns under the centralized partnership audit regime. The guidance applies to partnerships for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and partnerships that elect into the BBA regime for taxable years beginning after November 2, 2015, and before January 1, 2018.

November 26, 2019: The IRS issued Interim Guidance under Internal Revenue Manual 11.3.13 that provides guidance on processing FOIA requests for access to tax records protected by section 6103 where required identification or authorization has not been established by the requester. Effective immediately, such requests will be denied citing FOIA exemption (b)(3)/ section 6103 and appeal rights will be granted.

November 26, 2019: The IRS issued a News Release noting the approaching tax filing season and cautioning taxpayers not to rely on receiving refunds by a certain date. The IRS explained that though most refunds are issued in less than 21 days, various transactions—including year-end and holiday bonuses, stock dividends, capital gain distributions from mutual funds and stocks, bonds, virtual currency, and real estate sold at a profit—can delay a taxpayer’s refund.

November 29, 2019: The IRS released a Treasury Decision in which it announced a correcting amendment to final regulations and removal of temporary regulations (T.D. 9623) that were published in the Federal Register on July 3, 2013. The final regulations relate to the application of section 108(i) to partnerships and S corporations and provide guidance regarding the deferral of discharge of indebtedness income and original issue discount deductions by a partnership or an S corporation with respect to reacquisitions of applicable debt instruments after December 31, 2008 and before January 1, 2011. The amendment removes the sectional authority for Treas. Reg. § 1.108(i)-2T to read as follows: “Authority: 26 U.S.C. 7805, unless otherwise noted.”

November 29, 2019: The [...]

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TIGTA Pounces on IRS Federal Records Retention Policies; Recommends Changes

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently summarized several critical deficiencies in how the IRS handles electronically stored federal records in a recent report, available here. The lapses identified by TIGTA may affect the availability of those electronic records for future Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, litigation and Congressional review. The report does not address the IRS’s retention policy for physical documents.

Federal law mandates the retention of the government’s federal records. Unfortunately, prior to May 22, 2013, IRS electronic asset disposal policies included instructions to “wipe” and “reimage” computer hard drives that were no longer needed by IRS users. If those computers were the only repository for electronically stored federal records, that information would be lost. TIGTA noted that, even though the IRS revisited those policies several times, computers were still being wiped and reimaged as part of the IRS’s migration to Windows 7 through January 14, 2016. This also affects email retention since users are often required to manually identify and store or print their email records. An upgraded email solution that will permit the automatic retention and storage of email records is being implemented.

Further, TIGTA determined the IRS’ storage and retention policies for computers that were not wiped or reimaged were ineffective. For example, TIGTA found that the IRS has approximately 32,000 laptops and desktops in storage, but an inventory report identifying the number and location of computing devices currently in storage from specific employees could not be readily produced, rendering electronic federal records on those devices essentially unavailable.

These inadequate electronic record retention policies have resulted in the destruction of material subject to litigation holds, delays in the FOIA process, and the unavailability of responsive documents for FOIA requests. TIGTA made the following recommendations, which the IRS agreed to:

  • An enterprise email system should be implemented that enables the IRS to comply with federal records management requirements.
  • A methodology for developing one list of executives for the permanent and 15-year email retention groups should be documented.
  • The newly issued policy on the collection and preservation of federal records associated with separated employees should be disseminated broadly within the agency.
  • The director should ensure that the policy for documenting search efforts is followed by all employees involved in responding to FOIA requests.
  • The director should develop a consistent policy for the search of federal records associated with separated employees.

Practice Point: When drafting FOIA requests and discovery requests for electronic records, practitioners should be aware of record-retention challenges facing the IRS since they will impact the IRS’s ability to fully respond to FOIA requests and adequately implement litigation holds for years to come.

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