Freedom of Information Act

The enactment of the Taxpayer First Act, H.R. 3151 (116th Cong.) (TFA) brings with it several changes to the procedures and operations of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The TFA touches on the following subjects:

  • Establishing the IRS Independent Office of Appeals
  • Improving customer service
  • Changes to enforcement
  • Modernization of the Office of the National Taxpayer Advocate and the IRS
  • Cybersecurity and identity protection, technological changes, and expanded use of electronic systems
  • IRS hiring and disclosure changes
  • Provisions relating to exempt organizations
  • Changes to the penalty for failure to file
  • Determination of budgetary effects
  • Other miscellaneous provisions

This post does not discuss each subject, but rather focuses on changes to the IRS Appeals process.
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Coca-Cola is seeking a re-determination in Tax Court of certain Internal Revenue Service (IRS) transfer-pricing adjustments relating to its 2007–2009 tax years. In the case, the IRS moved for partial summary judgment seeking a ruling that a 1996 Internal Revenue Code Section 7121 “closing agreement” executed by the parties is not relevant to the case before the court.

Closing Agreement Background

Following an audit of the taxpayer’s transfer pricing of its tax years 1987–1989, the parties executed a closing agreement for Coca-Cola’s 1987–1995 tax years. In the closing agreement, the parties agreed to a transfer pricing methodology, in which the IRS agreed that it would not impose penalties on Coca-Cola for post-1995 tax years if Coca-Cola followed the methodology agreed upon. Despite following the agreed-to methodology for its post-1995 tax years, the IRS determined income tax deficiencies for Coca-Cola’s 2007–2009 tax years, arguing that pricing was not arm’s-length.
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On September 7, 2017, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a report about the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) procedures. After reviewing a statistically valid sample of FOIA requests, TIGTA concluded that the IRS improperly withheld information 14.3 percent of the time—or approximately 1 in 7 FOIA requests.

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